Giving a free van is not the solution | AspenTimes.com

Giving a free van is not the solution

Vince Savage’s heart was in the right place when he considered giving an Aspen homeless couple a $500 van after they totaled their brown bomber.

But let’s get real. Giving Michael O’Gara and Jane Patterson keys to a van is like giving Michael Vick VIP seats at the Westminster Kennel Club.

Not that we don’t want to see O’Gara and Patterson get back on their feet. The couple had made a dilapidated brown Chevrolet van, with the aid of massive amounts of duct tape, their humble confines for the last decade. At least until Patterson allegedly ran it off Maroon Creek Road on July 13.

She was cited for drunken driving, and those charges are pending.

Enter Savage. As director of Valley Information and Assistance, which is a program under the Aspen Valley Medical Foundation that helps the area’s downtrodden, Savage bought a 1977 Dodge passenger van for the troubled tandem.

Problem solved? Not exactly.

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We feel if Patterson and O’Gara get back behind the wheel, they could put others at risk by driving this $500 weapon around the upper valley.

Yes, they need a home. It’s the vehicle they could do without.

For sure, there’s nothing wrong with consuming alcohol at home, unless your home is a van and your drinking chair comes with a steering wheel and a gas pedal.

However, there must be a solution somewhere for this couple. With winter just around the corner, O’Gara and Patterson are eyeing a dreadfully long, cold time without a roof over their heads. In the meantime, there have been letters to this newspaper saying that O’Gara and Patterson should be kicked out of Aspen.

We strongly disagree, and not just because they have constitutional rights. They also are human beings, and we’d like to think that Aspen still has some compassion left.

A van, though, is not the solution. That is, unless, the van has no wheels. Perhaps Savage and others should modify their “gift” by removing the wheels and putting it on cinder blocks. Where to put this wheel-less van, however, is another question.

Better yet, we would prefer to see the social services of this community pull together and provide these people job training or some sort of help to make them productive members of society. Again, while Savage’s intentions seem good, we do wonder if this new van creates more problems than it solves.

Certainly this couple needs help. But giving them a working van will only enable them to have yet another crash ” and the next time, they may not be the only victims.

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