Aspen Homeless Shelter is looking for aid
The Aspen Times
The Aspen Valley Foundation ceased funding the Aspen Homeless Shelter in November, and shelter Director Vince Savage has been scrambling since.
He said he holds no ill will toward the foundation, which had provided around $175,000 annually to his shelter for about four years. Additionally, Savage said one of the foundation’s board members, through her personal foundation, covered the shelter’s past six weeks of expenses in 2013, which totaled about $20,000.
All things considered, Savage has done pretty well in 2014, raising about $138,000 for the first six months. One of the donors, a group from Woody Creek that wishes to remain anonymous, provided a $50,000 match. For 2015, the group has agreed to contribute again if the shelter can double the amount of its donation. In 2016, the group’s contribution will require the shelter to triple that amount.
Despite the partnership, Savage said the shelter — which served about 119 separate individuals in 2013 — still needs steady donors. All told, the shelter’s operating expenses are about $250,000 annually. Savage’s goal is to raise another $120,000 for the second half of 2014.
“The future is uncertain,” Savage said, adding that he’s not sure how long he will be able to maintain the overnight shelter at St. Mary Catholic Church on Main Street, which is open December through March and serves anywhere from 12 to 24 people a night.
The evening-meal program, held at the Schultz Health and Human Services Building on Castle Creek Road, which is open 365 days a year, draws an average of 15 to 20 people a night. Savage said he’d like homeless-shelter critics to know that the people who frequent his shelter aren’t “a bunch of bums off I-70, as a few people sometimes worry.”
Savage estimates that 62 percent of the shelter population either grew up in the Roaring Fork Valley or have been here for numerous decades.
“I think it puts some donors at ease to realize we are taking care of our own in this community, and we’re trying to mainstream everybody we can,” he said. “And those people who don’t seem capable of mainstreaming, we can help them survive and not be in the community’s face in some way that doesn’t work very well.”
In the past, the shelter has had to cut direct-assistance programs, such as medical, dental, vision and hearing aid. Savage said the budget used to allow for assistance with any health issues that compromise employment opportunity. There’s also less money for food, so the shelter’s cafeteria-produced meals have been converted into privately donated meals, dependent on local grocers and caterers, Aspen Camp, Anderson Ranch Arts Center, Aspen Elks Lodge, the Eagles Club and many others.
“What we’re really addressing here is, ‘How do you get sustainable funding when you don’t have a service that you can charge people a fee?’” he said. “In other words, if we tried to charge people who are homeless, we just wouldn’t have a program. We wouldn’t have a population.”
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Many members of the community wrote to laud the former Skico executive and city councilman for his friendship, dedication to family and community-minded spirit over more than two decades in Aspen.