For over a decade, the Neighborhood Sustainability Grant has funded 63 projects across the City of Flagstaff. The grant has been an annual staple for individuals, organizations and businesses looking to continue or create sustainability projects for the community.
This year is no different, with 13 applicants granted funding ranging from $2,150 to $7,500 for projects largely related to gardening, community education and support programs for people without homes.
While 13 were granted funding, there were 31 applicants, leaving the task of selecting who would receive funding to the City of Flagstaff Sustainability Office and the Sustainability Commission. Tia Hatton, a sustainability coordinator, helped oversee the selection process. Hatton said the main importance of the grant is the wide range of people it helps with a relatively small amount of funding.
“I think because the categories are pretty broad, it touches on a lot of different areas and a lot of different community members, from school-age children at various different schools to the people using family food center programs,” Hatton said. “It really has a broad, broad range of community members that it reaches, and it helps implement community members’ ideas to make our community more sustainable.”
Project plans were expected to relate to at least one of seven categories: food, waste reduction, climate action, resilience, building energy, public health and transportation. Each application was then graded on a rubric that took into account, among other considerations, innovation, feasibility, longevity and, starting this year, compliance with the city’s Carbon Neutrality Plan.
Grantees will work on their projects throughout the year and then are expected to submit a final report detailing what they completed with the funding.
“I feel like it spurs individual and group community action to implement these ideas that people around the community, that are closest to the ground, and who see those gaps in the services that they provide or the kinds of places they operate in their neighborhoods,” Hatton said. “It provides them a small amount of funding to carry out that project that they wouldn’t be able to do otherwise.”
One of the applicants that was awarded funding was Community Assistance Teams of Flagstaff (CATs of Flagstaff), a community nonprofit dedicated to helping people without homes beyond providing shelter.
CATs of Flagstaff was incorporated in August 2021 and soon after set to work on its first project, retrofitting a bus with a shower, bathroom and guest seating. The Mobile Outreach and Hygiene Bus now travels around Flagstaff, offering clothing, food, hygiene products, first aid, showers and communal space.
With the Neighborhood Sustainability Grant, the nonprofit plans to expand one of their existing programs: the People At Work (P@W) program. Originally a program that employs people without homes to clean up litter, the grant will help expand P@W to include artistic pursuits.
Wendy White, co-founder of CATs of Flagstaff, said the project idea is to collect construction waste, mainly wood, that would go into the landfill and repurpose it for use by people without houses in woodworking projects that they could then sell for a stream of revenue. White said she also hopes to buy art supplies for other mediums such as painting, drawing and possibly jewelry.
“People who are unsheltered have horrendous barriers to trying to get a job, to try to be employed, to try to make any sort of income for various reasons,” she said. “ … By providing alternative methods for people to earn income, albeit a small income, we are able to help individuals overcome some of those barriers and also improve their self-esteem.”
White said when asking for feedback about the P@W Program those who work for it often mention that working again improved their self-esteem.
“Being able to work, be part of society, is really critical for people’s self-esteem,” White said. “So that’s part of it. Then the other aspect is that we hopefully are also able to remove at least some of the waste product or waste materials that are going to go into the landfill.”
Another grant recipient with a two-part project proposal is Flagstaff Family Food Center (FFFC), a food bank that has been open since 1991, serving free meals to those who need them.