Aspen homeless shelter to reopen
ASPEN For the second year, homeless people in Aspen can find safe haven from the winter cold on Dec. 1, when St. Mary Catholic Church opens its doors.Members of the Aspen Homeless Coalition met Friday at the Health and Human Services building to formulate a plan. The coalition consists of members of area faith groups and nonprofits, as well as health professionals and volunteers.Building on the successes of the 2006-07 pilot project, when 45 volunteers and shelter staff served some 34 homeless people, coalition members are busy raising funds and recruiting volunteers.Those staying overnight must be sober and well-behaved (shelter staff had to turn away only a few in the first year) and are welcome to a cot in a classroom at the church from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. from Dec. 1 to March 30.”I think it will be better this year,” said Brad Osborn, who runs The Right Door, a drug and alcohol case management agency.Over the summer, the Right Door offices at the Health and Human Services Building served as a day room for area homeless people, a place those in need could get meals, use the Internet and connect with mental health and substance abuse case workers, Osborn said.The day room at Health and Human Services will operate in conjunction with the overnight shelter at St. Mary beginning Dec. 1, Osborn said.”Most of our homeless people have mental health and substance abuse problems,” Osborn said.Osborn said the coalition has a different philosophy than LIFT-UP, a longtime valley agency that offers one-time, temporary assistance such as vouchers for food, gas and the bus.”I have a hard time giving up on somebody,” Osborn said.”It’s about compassion, and it’s about relationship-building,” said Nan Sundeen, director of Pitkin County Health and Human Services. “Our plan is to provide more comprehensive care.””You start to build up relationships, you start to break down barriers,” said the Rev. Michael O’Brien of St. Mary Catholic Church.O’Brien hires staff for the overnight shelter and has two funded positions for winter.The Mother Puckers, Aspen’s women’s hockey team, will hold a fundraiser game at 7 p.m. Oct. 20 at the Aspen Ice Garden for the day shelter at The Right Door.Both shelters are looking for volunteers, organizers said, and the coalition plans to hold volunteer training sessions for the overnight shelter in coming weeks.”We know it’s cold out there,” Sundeen said. “I’m aware of people who need a place already.”Charles Agar’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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Cam Daniel is a former youth addiction counselor who’s been a Pitkin County sheriff’s deputy for three years.