Give support to our homeless | AspenTimes.com

Give support to our homeless

In just more than a week, St. Mary Catholic Church will open its overnight homeless shelter for the cold winter months. This is the second time the church has served the community in this capacity, after first opening its doors last winter. In fact, the shelter was slated to open Dec. 1 this year, and members of the Aspen Homeless Commission announced earlier this week that falling nighttime temperatures have led the church to open the shelter two weeks early, on Nov. 19.

There is a very small population of homeless in Aspen, but that doesn’t make the temporary winter shelter any less important. Last year, the church served about 34 people, with help from 45 volunteers and shelter staff. As a rule, those staying overnight must be sober and well-behaved in order to gain access to a cot from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. in a first-floor classroom at the church.

St. Mary Catholic Church deserves high praise for providing a venue for such an important service. Aside from the shelter, the coalition also has set up a day room at The Right Door’s offices in the Health and Human Services building, where those in need can get meals, use the Internet and connect with health and substance-abuse case workers. The Right Door is a drug and alcohol case management agency that also is active with the Homeless Coalition.

The issue of housing homeless is far from black and white. Brad Osborn, director of The Right Door, has said that addressing homelessness is “a very unpopular topic.” One reader of The Aspen Times online noted that our town handily raised $2.3 million for a facility for sheltering cats and dogs, and wondered whether Osborn has that kind of budget to help house homeless humans.

Well, he doesn’t. And regardless of your feelings about those who wind up in our town without a place to live, the Homeless Coalition’s quest to help those who don’t have a place to live is worth supporting. In fact, what it could really use this winter is support from volunteers. And in our opinion, even when you don’t know which side of the fence you land on when it comes to the local homeless population, it might be worth lending a helping hand so you can see the situation with your own eyes.