COLORADO SPRINGS — As the Pikes Peak Region flirts with sub-zero temperatures to start the week, a dilemma that has been a summer in the making faces advocates for the homeless people in Colorado Springs: keeping those in homeless shelters warm while a pandemic continues to circulate in the community.
Sunday night into Monday, the Springs Rescue Mission reported a 35% increase in the number of people utilizing the shelter beds, which means 374 of its 450 beds were filled.
“When these frigid temperatures drop, sometimes it catches people off guard,” Springs Rescue Mission Chief Development Officer Travis Williams. “So, we are excited in many cases when we see an uptick because it means more people are finding the right resources, right when they need it most.”
Williams said once temperatures get into the 20’s the shelter goes into emergency protocols, with “all hands on deck.” The preparations for the cold begin three or four days ahead of time and the Mission’s hours are extended and resources expanded, like shelter beds and meals.
They try to be as prepared as they can be for the people trying to escape the cold.
“We don’t know until we get into it right? Then all of the sudden, people start showing up. Our teams are ready, we’ve been through this before. We’ve never done it quite like this with a pandemic, but we are so used to caring for people in their time of need,” Williams explained.
Because of COVID-19, the Rescue Mission is handing out masks to anyone who doesn’t have one upon trying to enter the shelter, hand sanitizer, and educational messages around COVID-19 are prevalent around the shelter, people with heads and feet on opposite sides of the bed from their neighbor and people are screened for symptoms before coming inside.
During the day, the Mission’s new dining hall and community center offers 10,000 sq. feet of space for people to warm up while getting breakfast, lunch, or dinner. A waiting area allows people to wait for food while inside, rather than in the cold.
So far Williams said they have not reported any cases or outbreaks at the Rescue Mission.
“I know our teams have worked really hard, they step up, and really they care. They’re striving to love just a little bit bigger every day and when these challenges face us, this is what we’re here for. We’re here to care for our most vulnerable neighbors when they need it most,” he said.
The Springs Rescue Mission is a nonprofit funded mostly by community donations. To learn more about how to help here is a link to their website.