Groups working to repurpose old rehab center

December 7, 2010 • Local News

A project which will go a long way to help critical housing needs in Roswell is nearing completion. The project is a cooperative effort between Local Collaborative 5, Regional Housing Authority and Eastern New Mexico University, which is donating the old rehabilitation center.

The building will be broken down into apartments and a community center. Among the services being discussed are a community health center, a satellite office for Counselling Associates, a veteran’s trauma center and housing for both veterans and members of the New Mexico National guard who have been displaced.

“We have a unique opportunity to provide both housing and community services to an area of town that needs services, which may not come along again,” said Chris Herbert, executive director of Roswell Region VI Housing Authority. “If we could have a community health center within walking distance of the base, it would be a great benefit to the community,” Herbert said. The transfer between state and federal organization should be smooth, said Herbert.

“The state representatives are behind this. The issue right now is short term. We have to have a way to offset the cost of utilities.”

The opportunity presents unique challenges, explained Herbert. “Usually, an organization will get funds and then find a building. In this case the building came first. If we cannot find a way to afford (utilities), we will have another government building that will just deteriorate.” Utilities run about $13,500 per month. “Our budget is unable to handle the costs of utilities. We can’t put our organization at risk and sacrifice other programs,” Herbert said. The organization plans to approach Xcel for a grant and ask the city for help.

The need for help is immediate. The committee hopes to elicit community support and donations. A large part of the program is to give offices to area nonprofits. These offices would be rent free, said Herbert. Jane Batson, ENMU-R’s dean of health, suggested the organizations help defray the cost of utilities based on footage and usage.

“There’s enough room for everyone.” Herbert is asking for letters of commitment from interested organizations which would like to set up offices in the 119,000 square foot structure. Some of the organizations which have expressed an interest include Silver Sneakers and Youth ChalleNGe.

The community center would provide an outlet for prevention programs to help “effect a positive environment for the neighborhood.” Among the ideas discussed are rooms for Boy Scouts, health fairs, block parties, weekly activities for teens, Neighborhood Watch and interested faith-based organizations. Another goal is to set up a community garden to provide produce and train individuals in gardening. There is also a plan to set up a cafeteria for the community, which would not only feed people who find housing there, but provide a training site for future employment in the food services industry.

The idea is to create a catering facility and deli which could eventually become self-supporting. New Mexico Behaviorial Health Collaborative, Community Service Manager Jesse J. Chavez expressed excitement that five years of planning may reach a conclusion.

“This is not a federal program; it’s not state; it’s community. A benefit to an area of town that needs it.” To get started, the group is asking for donations. The donations would run through the Community Foundation of Chaves County, meaning all donations would be tax deductible.

The short-term need is funds to offset utility costs, but long term, the program hopes to convert to green energy sources. In the process of conversion from the current hospital setup to apartments and office space, the project would be used to train people in construction. “It would be great if we could get individual community groups to adopt one room to fund and help in its conversion,” said Chavez.

Monetary donations should be sent to: Community Foundation of Chaves County, P.O. Box 3167, Roswell, NM 88202. The letters of support and commitment need to be completed and turned in to the regional Housing Authority to supplement the official request of transfer before the end of the year. The deadline is set for Dec. 17; however, Herbert said he’d accept letters after that date. The letters need to be sent to Region VI Housing Authority, 106 E. Reed, P.O. Drawer 2057, Roswell 88202-2057.

Anyone wishing to obtain further information should contact the Housing Authority 622-0881, ext 21.

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