De-escalation training to help those experiencing homelessness to be offered in Glenwood Springs

Glenwood Springs community activist Debbie Wilde said she is hoping to get the community educated and involved in more conversations regarding homelessness.

Wilde was hired in spring of 2019 by the city to delve into the complexities of the city’s homelessness issues and work on providing resources and support in a more robust manner.

During an April 15 city council work session, Wilde provided council members with an update on how she hopes to make those conversations and education happen.

“There’s much to learn and much to do. Now that things are about to open up again we’re ready to go.” Wilde said. “One of the critical pieces is to do some education and listening and have an opportunity for citizens to come together and be intentional about what we want to do about homelessness.”

Wilde said working on facilitating community conversations in Glenwood Springs with the goal of figuring out what plans to take and how to then executive those plans.

In the last month, Wilde has helped facilitate de-escalation training with business owners within the community.

The training is similar to what law enforcement and hospital staff undergo and helps people know how to help others who are exhibiting what Wilde called “difficult behaviors.”

“We also see this when we see someone having a mental health issue. It could be a substance abuse kind of issue happening, it doesn’t have to be someone who is homeless,” Wilde said.

“We did two trial runs and had almost 30 people involved with that. That has met rave reviews and people want it again. The idea there is to have some online sessions.”

Wilde said the trial training session participants were selectively invited, but she intends to invite anyone from the public to participate.

Wilde said she hopes to also educate people on a number of biases against those experiencing homelessness.

“The No.1 reasons for homelessness is lack of attainable housing,” Wilde said. “A community has got to come together, and say we don’t want this but what about that? It’s being able to have that kind of education and that kind of conversation and listening, which will absolutely lead to a solution.”

Wilde said the class is designed to help participants learn practical ways to deal with individuals with difficult behavior, ways to make an environment safe, detect warning signs for those in distress, understand how one’s reactions can impact another person, gain an understanding of how to care for yourself and those around you.

“This class is typically arranged for organizations and businesses who would like their staff trained in de-escalation techniques and assessing when it is time to call for support such as law enforcement. The Hope Center holds the mobile crisis response contract in Eagle and Pitkin counties and staff consistently use the techniques taught in this class,” Wilde’s presentation materials state.

Councilor Ingrid Wussow recalled when she owned a bakery in Glenwood Springs years ago, which led to many interactions with people experiencing homelessness.

“I was there really early in the morning, like 4:30 a.m.,” Wussow said. “There was a homeless community and a handful of them that made friends. They were living in camps on the hillside, and they have since moved into HUD-sponsored homes and I see them in the community and they’re all doing really well. One thing they acknowledged that really helped was a detox center.”

Wussow wondered if the first step before providing a dedicated space for those experiencing homelessness would be to establish a detox program or center.

Wilde said that a detox program was one of her pillar projects.

“Part of my report to you today is what’s happening at the detox. We had this COVID pause, if you would. The one piece that I will say that did not pause was a recovery continuum task force,” Wilde said. “Recovery is a substantial piece, but not the only piece to accomplishing an end goal, which is people living in sobriety”

The task force is working on plans to create a detox center.

“One of the big things that’s been accomplished in the last month, we’ve been working with the whole jail piece because we’re releasing people from jail into homelessness,” Wilde said. “We finally began to create a bridge with some of the emergency money we’ve been able to provide hotel voucher dollars so people aren’t walking out of jail right into homelessness.”

Wilde said she’s hoping to continue the voucher program, though the funding in place for it ends in June.

“We also have the opioid settlement dollars that will be coming into regions. We’re hoping to see that at the end of next month,” Wilde said. “That could fill the gap between medicaid reimbursement and the dollars we have to get this off the ground.”

Reporter Shannon Marvel can be reached at 605-350-8355 or