(PHOTOS) County building lease helps Council of Community Services expand services

A youth who's a resident at the Emergency Homeless Shelter created a LEGO vehicle. (Mary Stroka/County 17)

GILLETTE, Wyo. — At its open house Tuesday, the Council of Community Services was able to show the community how it’s been able to expand its food pantry and housing services for the poor of northeastern Wyoming.

Council of Community Services ERAP Specialist Karen Archer (left) and ERAP Administrative Assistant Sonya VanNortrick welcome open house guests and inform them about about the Council’s services Aug. 9. (Mary Stroka/County 17)

The nonprofit, which is at 114 South 4-J Road in Gillette, provided tours of its expanded space for both supplies and living space. Food supplies used to be confined to any office space the Council had available, and the upper level of the emergency homeless shelter was a storage space, Executive Director Mikel Scott said. She said Campbell County leases the Council what was once its weed and pest building to the Council, and the Council rearranged its use of buildings space accordingly. The Council moved its weatherization services facility to the county’s building and transferred its food pantry to its former weatherization building.

The Council converted its weatherization program space into its food pantry. (Mary Stroka/County 17)

Around the end of May, the Council was able to begin housing an additional 15 people, she said. The expanded food pantry opened June 13, according to the Council’s website.

Council Executive Director Mikel Scott celebrates the grand opening of the expanded space for homeless community members. (Mary Stroka/County 17)

With the additional space in the emergency homeless shelter, the Council has been better able to provide individuals and families some privacy and independence and have more space. The upper level now provides four rooms of bunk beds, a kitchenette, and a space for residents to do homework or work remotely.

Council of Community Services staff check out a toaster in the upper floor kitchenette at the Aug. 9 open house.(Mary Stroka/County 17)

Scott said people living at the homeless shelter may be working two low-paying jobs and still not able to make a living. She said staff try to facilitate the shortest, most comfortable stays possible for those in desperate situations.

The front office of the Emergency Homeless Shelter. (Mary Stroka/County 17)

Scott said some city council members and county commissioners were among the Council’s visitors Tuesday. Staff told visitors of the Council’s services and programs, which include Seconds on the Avenue, emergency medical and dental assistance, Del Mar Apartments, the homeless shelter, a soup kitchen and domestic violence assistance.

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The weatherization program, which receives funding from the Department of Energy and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, helps people stay healthy and safe in their homes through providing fire alarms and shower vents, addressing gas leaks and fixing failed furnaces.

The upper floor of the Emergency Homeless Shelter retains some storage space. (Mary Stroka/County 17)

People who need food pantry services can fill out a form at the Council’s administration center to see if they qualify. They will need to declare what level of income they make.

They can shop the food pantry to select the supplies they need. Available items include essentials like toiletries, dish soap, diapers and toilet paper, along with some specialty items like disposable cake platters.

The Council’s food pantry now occupies its own building. (Mary Stroka/County 17)

Food pantry quantity limitations depend on family size. Some of the diapers are available through a grant program, which requires individuals to fill out a separate form.

The Emergency Homeless Shelter is at 114 S 4-J Road, (Mary Stroka/County 17)

Scott said chief among the Council’s needs at this time is funding. Monthly donations, of even just $5 or $10, would make a big difference because having some stability in incoming funding helps staff plan, retain employment and apply for grants. Grants tend to require matching funds.

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Scott said that the Council also needs winter gear, which staff will store until the first snowfall brings in tons of calls from families who need winter gear, especially for their children.

She said it would also be helpful if someone could categorize the roughly 100 calls the Council receives daily to improve needs assessments.

While the Council will also accept donations of individual food items, it’s more economical for the the Council to buy food through monetary donations since it’s able to purchase food at cheaper rates, Scott said.

Residents can store personal food items in a kitchen at the Emergency Homeless Shelter. (Mary Stroka/County 17)

 

The Emergency Homeless Shelter also has bedrooms on its first floor. (Mary Stroka/County 17)

 

Correction, August 11: A previous version of this story said Campbell County donated its former weed and pest building to the Council. Campbell County, which retains ownership of the building, leases the facility at little cost to the Council. This story has been updated to reflect this information.