Human Resources Coalition updates plans for housing, transit, mental health care
Routt County’s Human Resources Coalition has outlined a three-year plan to help vulnerable county residents, putting particular focus on affordable housing, transit and mental health.
The Human Resources Coalition, which includes Steamboat Springs City Council, Steamboat Springs School District and more than 20 area nonprofits, organized its plan into several priorities: decreasing food insecurity, increasing transitional housing, advocating for more transportation routes and increasing self-sufficient learning.
Kate Nowak, executive director of Routt County United Way, presented the plan Tuesday to City Council.
“Believe it or not, in this city, there are people that are food insecure, and they might choose to pay the electric bill versus having healthy food in the home,” Nowak said.
Nowak pointed to LiftUp of Routt County’s Rocket Pack program, which provides fruits, vegetables and healthy snacks to school-aged children at all of Routt County’s schools, as a model for what feeding the entire county could look like.
“Kids need healthy snacks in the middle of the day, and sometimes, that’s their only lunch,” Nowak added.
As for transitional housing, Nowak acknowledged Steamboat’s extreme lack of affordable housing and said that churches in the county have helped solve the issue, but governing bodies, nonprofits and large employers all have to play a role in finding a solution.
“What we want to do is get people to medical appointments, grocery shopping and access to services,” Nowak said. “We also want to give people more choice on where they live.”
Because housing in Steamboat is limited and generally unaffordable, Nowak said the program hopes to give people a choice to live in other parts of the county. However, Nowak noted that is likely only feasible if those who need to commute into Steamboat have a free transit option.
“If they can only live in Steamboat Springs because that’s where the free transportation is, that’s creating a whole other level of housing and need for the city,” Nowak said. “If we had a regional transit authority, people could choose to live in Oak Creek or Hayden.”
Steamboat Springs Transit runs twice per day to Steamboat ll, Milner, Hayden and Craig, leaving at 5:15 a.m. and 6:15 a.m., then departs Steamboat at 4:25 p.m. and 5:25 p.m. The regional transit service also charges a fare outside of the city, and it does not service North or South Routt County.
“We see this as a huge need,” Nowak said, adding that the plan hopes to increase routes to other parts of the Yampa Valley within the next three years.
In addition to housing, transportation and food options, Nowak said the plan also emphasized the need for better and more accessible mental health counseling.
“The pandemic has really taken a toll on people, particularly our youth, so we want to increase the amount of therapists that take Medicaid and increase the number of therapists,” Nowak said.
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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