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Navajo Women’s Shelter Remains Unfinished

Navajo Women’s Shelter Remains Unfinished
August 27
09:28 2015

A women’s shelter for victims of domestic violence sits unfinished in Shiprock, N.M., more than a decade after efforts to build it began.

Former New Mexico State Rep. Ray Begaye worked to get $1.4 million in state funds for the project.

Under the last two Navajo Nation presidents – Ben Shelly and Joe Shirley, Jr. – some of the money was redirected to other projects, Begaye said. The state also took back a large part of the funds, he added.

Ray Begaye

Ray Begaye

The non-profit that planned to operate the Shiprock Home for Women and Children saw only $290,000.

After a decade, the shelter is about 80% completed. It was designed to house 14 families and up to 84 children. Between 2004 and 2009 the state authorized funding for the project, and New Mexico lawmakers reauthorized it a dozen times between 2007 and 2012. In 2014 the state diverted $794,000 for an irrigation project elsewhere on the reservation. It took back $352,672.

The incomplete shelter is now surrounded by barbed wire and is locked in chains.

The non-profit had demolished the old shelter to make way for the new one. It currently operates out of nearby modular units.

Begaye said the shelter would have already opened had the last two Navajo administrations not hampered its funding.

The problems began in 2002, when Shirley first took office, and he began to question why non-profits were operating on Navajo land.

The non-profit had leased the land for 75 years in 2007.

The Shirley administration came to the conclusion that the tribe should own all buildings on the reservation.

The non-profit, which receives most of its funding through outside sources, objected to the tribe’s stance.

In the spring of 2010 the tribe once again amended an agreement with the non-profit, saying the tribe would build the shelter.

But the Navajo Housing Authority froze – and then terminated – a grant agreement with the non-profit.

The Navajo Nation next obtained $1.1 million from the state – but the Navajo Department of Justice blocked the funding.

When the tribe decided to build the shelter itself, it sought a new contractor. RJN Construction, the original contractor was barred from working on the reservation.

But an attorney for RJN owner Bob Nelson discouraged other companies from bidding on the project.

In 2011 the Navajo District Court ordered the non-profit and Nelson not to interfere with the tribe’s access to the property or its building a new shelter.

After Shelly took office he vetoed a request for $180,000 in supplemental funds to complete the shelter.

 

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