Friday, July 30, 2010

Shiprock: Official Neglects Stalls Shelter for Women and Children

News Briefing


The Home for Women and Children in Shiprock, Navajo Nation (New Mexico) has served woman and child victims of family violence and sexual assault since 1978. It provides emergency and transitional shelter for women and children but operates from a temporary facility. The program contracted to build larger and more secure shelter facility in 2003. The current temporary facility cannot satisfy emergency demand.

The Home provides services the government cannot, and serves the Shiprock Chapter, so the Navajo Nation made a contract with RJN Construction Management, Inc. on July 1, 2007 to undertake whatever work is necessary to complete the new shelter facility. It is an “open-ended” contract that authorizes construction work, with funding from whatever source, until the project is completed.

Representative Ray Begaye, a Navajo legislator who represents northwest New Mexico in the New Mexico Legislature, sought a funding appropriation to finish the shelter, along with other projects, and on June 5, 2010 the New Mexico Indian Affairs Department informed the Navajo Nation of a $1,145,000 grant dedicated to the shelter. The State and New Mexico signed an intergovernmental agreement on February 2, 2010 where the Navajo Nation pledged “to make site improvements and to construct, equip and furnish the home for women, and children in Shiprock.” The grant expires on June 20, 2011 and the Home must factor in weather, construction delay and warranty inspection work to meet that deadline. The Navajo Nation has not authorized construction to date, although more than one year has passed since the New Mexico gave the grant, and six months has gone since the Navajo Nation agreed to have the work done.

President Joe Shirley, Jr. directed that action be taken to complete the Shelter but bureaucrats within the Navajo Nation Department Justice are blocking action. The President authorized an emergency procurement for the contractor and on July 26, 2010 the Navajo Nation Commission on Emergency Management declared that there is a public emergency from inaction, citing the need to provide shelter, a current New Mexico budget crisis that jeopardizes the grant, and the safety of victims of domestic violence. Alvin H. Warren, the New Mexico Indian Affairs Cabinet Secretary, supported the emergency declaration, also citing the failure to move forward with the project and time constraints.

The Home points out that, given the open-ended contract the Navajo Nation has with RJN Construction, all that is needed to start and complete the work is a notice to proceed, and one has not been issued. Further confusion and bureaucratic stalling, or even litigation, will likely keep the project from moving and cause the State of New Mexico to recapture the grant because it has expired or monies have not been obligated.

The Home needs public support to demand that the Attorney General approve an emergency procurement to complete the home and that the Abin Mitchell of the Navajo Nation Division of Community Development give immediate orders for the project to proceed to completion.

Gloria Champion, the director of the Shiprock Home, looked at the grant deadline and said, “2011—2011–the women and children can’t wait! We’re cramped, overcrowded and we can’t keep up with emergency demand. We’re having to refer families out and they have no where to go. We need more space now!” Champion called from Washington, D.C. after attending the White House ceremony for President Obama to sign the new Indian Country Law and Order Act at the invitation of federal officials. “I just witnessed badly-needed federal support for women and child victims of crime—where is the Navajo Nation’s support for them and our shelter?”

People who want to support the Shiprock Home shelter can call the office of the Attorney General and Arbin Mitchell of the Division of Community Development to demand immediate action, and also call President Joe Shirley, Jr.’s office to express support. Contact numbers:

Attorney General, Department of Justice (928) 871-6345, -6205

Division of Community Development (928) 871-6810

Office of President Joe Shirley, Jr. (928) 871-7000

Issued by authorization of Gloria Champion, Executive Director, Home for Women and Children on July 30, 2010.


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Censored News is published by censored journalist Brenda Norrell. A journalist for 27 years, Brenda lived on the Navajo Nation for 18 years, writing for Navajo Times, AP, USA Today, Lakota Times and other American Indian publications. After being censored and then terminated by Indian Country Today in 2006, she began the Censored Blog to document the most censored issues. She currently serves as human rights editor for the U.N. OBSERVER & International Report at the Hague and contributor to Sri Lanka Guardian, Narco News and CounterPunch. She was cohost of the 5-month Longest Walk Talk Radio across America, with Earthcycles Producer Govinda Dalton in 2008:
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