HOT temporarily reassigned, fight to end homelessness continues

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The Grand Valley Coalition for the Homeless is nearly one year into its 10 year plan to end homelessness, but now the group will be without one of its important key contributors.

For now, the Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) program members will be reassigned to normal patrol duties. The move was made because of the need for more patrol officers, but authorities and local homeless groups are hoping it's a temporary one.

It's a game of numbers, and the fight against homelessness in the Valley is all about balance.

"Where the HOT team will be gravely missed, the good work that this community does will continue," Homeward Bound operations coordinator Mollie Woodard said.

For now, numbers are the main reason Grand Junction Police will be reassigning its Homeless Outreach Team to normal patrol duties.

"This is only because we have a shortage right now for our patrol officers due to some attrition that happened throughout last year,” police spokesperson Kate Porras said. "It helped alleviate some of those calls that were coming on to our other patrol officers,"

For two years, the HOT program has worked to establish relationships with members of the homeless community, not only by gaining their trust but also leading them to places like Catholic Outreach and Homeward Bound for help.

"[The HOT program] diminished the hostility that homeless people, especially chronically homeless may have had with police," Catholic Outreach’s Sister Karen Bland said.

"There were a lot of really good success stories with our chronic homeless," Woodard added.

In its absence now, local outreach organizations will continue to find balance in helping the ever changing face of homelessness.

“The economy and employment, there's still those issues out there that are being addressed and people right there on that fringe who are struggling," Woodard said.

The Coalition for the Homeless is currently waiting for survey results which will tell them just how many people are sleeping on the streets.

"We will be better able to meet their needs in this community through the various agencies that do provide," Sister Karen said.

These groups will continue their fight alongside police in a different role for now, but they're ever hopeful the HOT program will soon be back on the streets.

"They’re still available if we need them because they'll be on a regular patrol," Sister Karen said.

Besides the HOT team, the Grand Junction Police Department also reassigned its six traffic officers.

GJPD currently has eight officers in training right now. It's also actively recruiting more police officers to get its numbers up.

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