The La Paz Coalition to End Homelessness has a new chairman. At the coalition’s April 3 meeting, Ortensia Yazzie was elected chairperson, while Barbara Cuadras was elected vice chair and secretary. The current chairman, Michael Gregory, is an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) volunteer, and will be leaving April 20 when his assigned time to Parker is up.

Gregory took over leadership of the coalition last year when another VISTA volunteer, Liliana Cruz, left Parker. He said he saw the opportunity to come to Parker and work with homeless veterans and applied for it. He said he believed this would be a good way to apply his education.

Gregory said the coalition was formed because grants and other funding are available from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through the Arizona Department of Housing. A coalition of stakeholders is needed to qualify for these funds.

The goal of the coalition, Gregory said, was to have those groups and individuals interested in ending homelessness get together and decide what the community needs.

“It’s a way to get everyone on the same page,” he said.

Gregory spoke at the April 2 meeting of the La Paz County Board of Supervisors and invited them to the coalition meetings. He said a survey earlier this year showed the number of homeless in La Paz County is growing.

At the April 3 coalition meeting, Gregory said he’d like to have the towns and law enforcement agencies attend the coalition meetings.

The major topic at the April 3 meeting was how to reach out to homeless people in the area and get them information on services available.

David Bridge of the Arizona Department of Housing urged the coalition to go first for small successes. Once they have some success, they will be a credible coalition to the housing department.

“Don’t try to fix the world in a week,” he said.

Bridge said the coalition needed to look at what could be done on a human level.

“How do we engage people?” he asked. “How do we get them to the resources they need? In some communities, they do it through churches and dining halls. It’s up to us to meet and work with people and then support the people in what they do. Making this thing human is a big part of it.”

Bridge thanked Gregory for his work, noting some communities have coalitions that don’t meet at all.

Gregory thanked everyone for “putting up with him.”

Valerie Donnelly of the Western Arizona Council of Governments also thanked Gregory.

“This group wouldn’t be here without you,” she said to him.

The members of the coalition thanked Gregory and presented him with a cake as a sign of their appreciation.

Gregory said he expects his replacement to arrive in June.

The La Paz Coalition to End Homelessness meets from 1:30 to 3 p.m. the first Tuesday of each month at the Regional Center of Border Health, which is located at 601 Riverside Drive in the Betty Hunter Real Estate complex. Their next meeting is June 5. The phone number is 928-669-4436.

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