Aspen’s winter shelter for homeless to open Dec. 1, director says | AspenTimes.com

Aspen’s winter shelter for homeless to open Dec. 1, director says

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times

Though it's cold and snowy, the Aspen Homeless Shelter was scheduled to open on its regular starting date of Dec. 1, according to shelter Director Vince Savage — that is until the Aspen Community Foundation provided a grant Friday to get the shelter open two weeks ahead of schedule.

The Aspen Homeless Shelter is now scheduled to open Nov. 14, made possible by a small grant from the Aspen Community Foundation. The Homeless Shelter will open at 9 p.m. and will run for the rest of the month, with its usual hours scheduled to begin Dec. 1.

The doors open at 9 p.m. and participants must be in by 10 p.m. They are asked to leave each morning by 6:50 a.m.
For more information call Aspen Community Foundation at 970-925-9300 or Vince Savage of The Aspen Homeless Shelter at 970-544-5545.

Savage was out of town but said by phone Thursday afternoon that he fielded a handful of calls from Aspen-area media about the shelter's scheduled opening in the wake of two separate arrests Wednesday and Thursday of a homeless man who was caught sleeping overnight in the ATM foyer of U.S. Bank on East Main Street.

The overnight winter shelter operates for four months, from Dec. 1 to mid-March, in the basement of St. Mary's Church, also on Main Street. From mid-March to April 1, the shelter moves to Aspen Community Church on East Bleeker Street. The winter shelter typically services between 12 and 24 people each night, often depending on weather conditions. It is the only overnight homeless shelter in the upper Roaring Fork Valley.

Another overnight shelter, Feed My Sheep in Glenwood Springs, is expected to open later this month.

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"The reason we don't open any earlier … is basically budget," Savage said. "And this is our first year trying to raise all of our funds on our own because the foundation that used to support us cut us loose."

He was referring to the Aspen Valley Foundation, which stopped assisting the shelter and several other charities in late 2013 and early this year following a rapid decline in fundraising. For decades, the foundation was called the Aspen Valley Medical Foundation, but after cutting ties with Aspen Valley Hospital in 2012, the nonprofit was renamed.

The foundation still exists but does not have the fundraising and grant-making power it once had.

Savage said the Aspen Homeless Shelter, which includes not only the overnight shelter but the day shelter and evening-meal program at the Schultz Health and Human Services Building on Castle Creek Road, has an annual budget of $240,000. Donations over the past year will allow overall shelter operations to operate through the winter season, he said.

Hours at the day shelter had to be shortened and measures were undertaken to cut costs of the evening-meal program in response to funding issues, Savage said.

"We're raising all of our revenues ourselves," he said. "We've got some generous donors in town, but there is a need."

Savage said the majority of homeless people in Aspen are self-sufficient during periods of cold weather when the overnight shelter isn't open. They find places to camp and have access to supplies and food through the efforts of the day shelter.

It would be difficult to open a permanent night shelter in Aspen, or anywhere upvalley or midvalley, because of the high value of area real estate, Savage said.

The Aspen shelters serve a different type of homeless person compared with major cities, he said. Typically, they are from the Roaring Fork Valley, even the city of Aspen itself. They tend to be skilled and in some cases highly educated people who have fallen on hard times since the Great Recession.

"Think of all the beautiful homes during the offseason that are out there sitting empty right now," Savage said. "And all the people who are living outside cold. I don't mean to sound like a social activist, but it is something to wonder about.

"We're all very aware of this issue," Savage said. "We'd love to expand our months of service. But if you can't do it, you can't do it."

Donations to the Aspen Homeless Shelter may be sent to 405 Castle Creek Road, Suite 16, Aspen, CO 81611. The nonprofit shelter accepts money and other items, including first-aid equipment, toiletries and gift cards for groceries.

andre@aspentimes.com