That there are people and families homeless in Chaffee County is a fact, according to the new Chaffee County Homeless Coalition formed to determine what interventions the community might need to help residents experiencing homelessness, particularly related to the provision of temporary housing. Dealing with immediate need, the Caring and Sharing Community Resource Center has agreed to initiate a Code Blue Shelter. They will continue to work with the broader Homeless Coalition to design a more sustainable and appropriate long-term solution
Coalition members cross the spectrum of county and state organizations which can play a role in short-term interventions, specifically the immediate concern of exposure to cold weather in winter months. The action group is comprised of representatives from Solvista Health, Caring and Sharing Community Resource Center, Chaffee County, Department of Human Services, Department of Public Health, Office of Housing, Sheriff Department, Salida City Council, Salida Police Department, the Bureau of Land Management and other concerned citizens.
Asked about whether the county has an actual need for the Code-blue Center, Chaffee County Homeless Coalition Coordinator & Caring and Sharing Board Member Michaelann Lee said that within the Salida school district alone, 26 students and their families are homeless.
“Cold weather puts a significant strain on the health of people who are living in places not meant for human habitation. Deaths caused by hypothermia are 13 times more likely than the general population,” said Lee. “ Most deaths of homeless persons occur in the conditions of cold stress, and the relative risk of death for a homeless person is increased even in moderate cold stress conditions.
Nationally, says Lee, it is estimated that the tax payer burden for services is nearly $100.00 per day, per homeless person. She says she wants the community to understand that helping the homeless helps taxpayers too. “Without shelter, chronically homeless persons often seek shelter by using taxpayer-funded services. Some may admit themselves to the emergency room, others may commit a crime to find space in jail, and still others may do damage to public properties by breaking and entering.”
After addressing critical needs during the holiday weeks, and beginning in early 2019, the Community Resource Center will assist up to ten men per night, offering a sheltered place to sleep at the Lighthouse Ministries Soup Kitchen. The shelter will accept guests from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. the next day. The resource center already assists women and children by covering the cost of a hotel room.
The shelter will do a background check on all those using shelter services and those in-need with a substance abuse issue or with a past background in the criminal justice system will be assigned a Solvista Health Recovery Support Care Manager. Care Managers can help homeless client’s apply for services in the community, while assessing and assisting them to overcoming barriers to stability.
The Chaffee County Homeless Coalition is going to be looking for ( tax-deductible) donations to be made at the Resource Center; including physical items and funding. The group is particularly asking for donations of winter hats, gloves, coats, and blankets. Monetary donations can be made to the Caring and Sharing Community Resource Center/ Homeless Shelter at www.salidacaringsharing.org . Those with time to volunteer can also contribute time at the short-term Code Blue shelter or the longer-term Homeless Coalition goal of setting up its own facility to serve the homeless in Chaffee County.
The Chaffee County Homeless Coalition will hold two town hall meetings, on Dec. 27 and Jan. 3 at 6:00 p.m. at the Salida Community Center. Those wanting to learn more now can contact Lee at Mihaelannlee@gmail.com or (719) 429-8611.