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Giving shelter from the cold

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Community partnership provides warm lodging for homeless people

By Chris Ferguson

Local faith organizations, nonprofits, governments and law enforcement agencies are partnering to provide cold-weather lodging for the area’s homeless population.

The initiative — called the Tri-county Severe Weather Shelter — brings together the resources of the Human Services Department of Jefferson County, the Jeffco Sheriff’s Office, The Action Center, Love Inc., the Homelessness Awareness Task Force: South Metro, Heading Home, Mean Street ministries and five southwest community churches. 

On cold nights, participants are picked up about 7:30 p.m. at one of two locations in Lakewood or Englewood and then shuttled to participating churches. Once there, their possessions are secured, and they are given bedrolls, meals and beverages. Participants are given time to socialize before a 9:30 p.m. lights-out curfew. In the morning, individuals are given a meal and then transported back to the drop-off site. 

“By bringing them into the church, we are able to help give them a community setting and a safe place to be where all their stuff is secure,” said LynnAnn Huizingh, director of the Severe Weather Shelter Network.

In its second year, the program runs Oct. 1 through April 30 and is available on nights that are colder than 20 degrees without snow or nights 32 degrees or colder with snow, said Huizingh. The program was tested last year, and the guidelines were ironed out over the summer.

Participating churches include Faith Community Church, Applewood Community Church and Sloans Lake Community Church. The three churches rotate as host sites on a schedule of roughly every three weeks from Monday through Sunday. Other churches may become involved in the coming years, she said.

In the event that host churches reach capacity, individuals are given motel vouchers. Currently, there are 158 individuals signed up in the program, Huizingh said. 

The program is open to single males or females. To be eligible, individuals go through a short background check to make sure they are a good fit for the community setting, she said. Families and teens are routed to other services, Huizingh said.

Once part of the programs, individuals are given a shelter network card and are added to a master list available to member charities. On cold nights, individuals are able to call in and check availability and be added to the nightly list. 

Volunteers and donations are always needed, Huizingh said. The program is always in need of clothing items, including men’s boots, outerwear, gloves, hats, etc. Food, beverage and financial donations are also welcome.

The host sites are:

• Faith Community Church, 6228 S. Carr Court in Littleton.

• Applewood Community Church, 12930 W. 32nd Ave. in Golden.

• Sloans Lake Community Church, 2796 Utica St. in Denver.

For more information about the program or to donate, visit http://jeffco.us/human-services/news/2013/severe-weather-resources-for-j.... If you are homeless and want more information about options available, contact Family Tree at 303-467-2604 or The Action Center at 303-237-7704.