Cabins for the homeless? |

Cabins for the homeless?

The U.S. Forest Service is making this cabin near Ashcroft and two others available. They have to be dismantled and relocated. (Contributed photo)

ASPEN Aspen Homeless Coalition members said there’s nowhere to put the three deserted cabins that federal officials offered this week to use as housing for the homeless.The U.S. Forest Service is getting rid of eight structures on public lands near Ashcroft, south of Aspen, and officials offered the coalition three buildings they deemed worth dismantling for use elsewhere.The Aspen Homeless Coalition consists of area law enforcement agencies, representatives from the faith community, and mental health and substance abuse case managers, working together to help Aspen’s homeless population.Coalition members have 60 days to decide whether to use the buildings; thereafter the structures will go to a sealed-bid auction, according to a report from the U.S. General Service Administration.”I guess they’re pretty old. They’re not up to code and there are no utilities in them,” said coalition member Nan Sundeen, director of health and human services for the county.

Sundeen was not sure if the buildings were a viable option for housing homeless people, but she said coalition members have shown interest.The opportunity is the result of the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act, which empowers the GSA to gift properties to government agencies and nonprofits working with homeless people.”They’d have to find a place to put them. And that’s the issue,” said Cindy Houben, director of Pitkin County Community Development. “In this community, I don’t know where you’d find a land appropriate to that.”Ghost cabins”We’ve got too many buildings. We can’t maintain them,” said Martha Moran of the Aspen/Sopris Ranger District. And the eight buildings being torn down, including the King Cabin, do not fit Forest Service use, she said.

“These buildings are insufficient. They don’t meet our standards to allow the public in them or let people live in them,” Moran said.The owners of Ashcroft Ski Touring have permission to build three new structures: two caretaker buildings near the Pine Creek Cookhouse and a replacement for the King Cabin, Moran said.”It’s part of a larger improvement program,” Moran said.The three buildings – the Kellog Cabin, Hunley Warming Hut and the Schoolhouse Building – are in various states of disrepair. The Schoolhouse Building stands adjacent to the Pine Creek Cookhouse. Built in 1928 as a school and most recently used as employee housing, the 1,500-square-foot, wood-frame structure topped with a metal roof has indoor plumbing and gas heat and is in “average” condition, according to the GSA report.

The other structures, the Kellog Cabin and the Hunley Warming Hut, are both beyond the Pine Creek Cookhouse on Pearl Pass Road and date to the 1950s. The 500-square-foot, wood-frame Kellog Cabin has a wood stove but no plumbing, and the 150-square-foot Hunley Warming Hut is in poor condition, according to the report.Sundeen said she is not sure what it would cost to move the structures and bring them up to livable conditions. And she doesn’t know where the coalition could find land to put the buildings, but she said the group is considering using them.”Those are things we’d be looking at and exploring,” Sundeen said.When a colleague asked her whether homeless people would want to live in the Spartan conditions, Sundeen said, “Well, you’ve never been homeless.”Charles Agar’s e-mail address is

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