Aspen shelter opens its doors
On a night when the temperature dipped to 7 degrees, St. Mary Catholic Church in Aspen opened its doors to area homeless people for the first night of a three month trial.”There’s a fine line between empowering and enabling,” said Father Mike O’Brien, priest of St. Mary, as he was busy assembling cots he recently bought at Wal-Mart.The three month pilot program is more than a stopgap measure to help folks stay warm through the winter, O’Brien said; it is an opportunity to get people access to clinicians, whether mental health or substance abuse counseling, or to help people fill out paperwork and access area services.An Aspen hotel donated blankets, pillows and sheets, and the church has thick exercise mattresses that folks can stack and make a comfortable bed.”The first night went really well,” said Brad Osborn. Three clients is a start, he said, and he is unsure how many more will show up.”I’m not sure how it’s going to work out,” Osborn said. “That’s why we’re doing this. So we can iron out all the wrinkles.”Osborn and O’Brien will alternate nights spent monitoring the facility. They plan to hire someone for the job, either someone who needs a place to stay and would spend every night at the church, or two employees who would break the week into shifts.”We’re going to keep it safe and secure,” Osborn said. Hiring an overnight monitor is an important component.”If somebody wanted to volunteer to do it, that’s great, but it really needs to be a paid position,” he said. The overnight monitor could sleep, he said, but it would be “interrupted sleep” depending on the clients. “It’s not that quiet,” he said.O’Brien and Osborn have some start-up contributions but are looking for additional money to fund the position.They will hold a Dec. 13 volunteer training for those interested in helping.O’Brien and Osborn knew all of the guests at the church on the shelter’s opening night. “They’ve been around for a while,” Osborn said. He was able to resolve the situation for one client who will no longer need the help of the shelter.”It was a good start,” Osborn said.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.The Aspen Times, Aspen, Colo.
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