First few months of Grand Junction’s unhoused resource center spark early optimism 

Stina Sieg/CPR News
Grand Junction’s new resource center for unhoused people is a partnership between the city and the nonprofits HomewardBound of the Grand Valley and United Way of Mesa County. Chris Masters is HomewardBound’s director of administration and operations.

More than 100 residents a day visit Grand Junction’s unhoused resource center, which service providers are hailing as a success for a project borne from the controversial shuttering of a city park.

The resource center was approved by the Grand Junction City Council shortly after the surprise closure of Whitman Park, a downtown greenspace frequented by residents experiencing homelessness. Officials cited safety concerns and park development plans as the reason why the park transitioned into a reservation-only usage area.

The closure frustrated advocates for the unhoused community, who said Whitman Park made for a central location to find and help people who needed assistance.

The resource center was built to address some of that function, a hard-sided pavilion that could be heated and cooled and was open for daytime use. Grand Junction City Council voted to fund the project at nearly $1 million and the nonprofit HomewardBound and the United Way of Mesa County offered to provide staffing.

“It was stood up very quickly and it's serving a lot of people in a dignified way and doing a lot of good,” Grand Junction Mayor Abe Herman said. 

In a press release, HomewardBound said the facility has thus far provided 20,148 individual services since it opened at the end of January. They specifically noted the center “has provided 2,361 showers, 2,558 meals, and 1,293 rides to and from overnight shelters.” Surveys estimate that Mesa County has more than 2,000 residents experiencing homelessness. 

Chris Masters, the chief of staff at HomewardBound, said the numbers exceed expectations.

“We did not expect to see the volume that we're seeing, but we're absolutely elated that we are seeing the volume and folks come through and the numbers that we're seeing,” Masters said. 

Looking toward the summer, Masters hopes to add better outdoor amenities to the shelter to bolster program offerings and encourage residents to use it more regularly.

“That's what this is about. We have a rolling schedule now, but we want to add to that rolling schedule and provide more services. That way we have something going on every day, all day,” Masters said, adding that the hope is to build trust so that HomewardBound staff can connect people experiencing homelessness to housing resources.

Tom Hesse/CPR News
Tents set up in Desert Vista Park in Grand Junction, March 25, 2024.

“If someone comes into the shelter and they don't want to be bothered, that is fine with us. But the staff there is going to keep making that contact and what we see is eventually they will engage and we will be able to get them in to see case management or maybe even get them into one of our overnight shelters,” Masters said.

The Grand Junction City Council considered the resource center an immediate option for assisting people experiencing homelessness. The city also helped fund a shelter that's being built across the street from Whitman Park and contributed to other service providers.

On Monday, May 13, the city council will discuss interim housing options in Grand Junction, which could make things like sanctioned camping or safe parking areas possible.

For more information on the resource center, click here.