PUEBLO, Colo. — Pueblo Police were on patrol Tuesday night, not for criminals, but for people without a home to keep them warm.
A few dozen people found solace in the foyers of the sheriff’s office and police department. Also, businesses like the Senior Development Resource Agency and Tick Tock opened their doors for emergency shelters.
“I’m fine until my feet get cold, then I’m out, “said Charles Stewart. “You have a bunch of people that live by the river. I don’t see how they do it.”
Stewart was one of the people to crash at the Sheriff’s Office. He says he’s been homeless for three years.
“I’d spend my nights on the corner of First and Sante Fe, just sitting on the bench,” Stewart said. “I wouldn’t sleep, I’d catnap. It got to the point where I couldn’t deal with the cold so I’d get up just to walk around.”
On Wednesday, the city and the Pueblo Rescue Mission announced they would re-open a temporary warming shelter while construction for the permanent homeless shelter is still underway.
The temporary place, located at 901 W. 9th Street, is the same facility used last year.
“We don’t want people freezing to death on our streets,” Pueblo Mayor Nic Gradisar said. “They were maybe just as surprised as we were that [winter] came this early.”
When the Rescue’s Executive Director, Kathy Cline, opened the doors Wednesday afternoon it revealed an empty building with a couple of large heaters and a concrete floor. Port-a-potties and security were also provided.
“A warming shelter is only open when it’s very cold. You come in at night and you leave early in the morning,” Cline said. “We were able to put something together quickly. It’s not ideal but at least it’s done.
Temperatures this week have fallen well below freezing, on some nights hovering around zero degrees.
Cline and her organization have tried to distribute coats, clothes and sleeping bags when possible, but said this type of cold is too much to go without shelter. She’s not sure if this means the temporary building will be open until the permanent one is finished, or if this will be on an emergency basis—like this week.
“We’re open, we’re going to keep people from freezing tonight and that’s all we’re going to do,” Cline said. “We’ll figure out other ways as we go forward.”
Gradisar said he hasn’t been in the new shelter himself but has been told the end-of-December goal for its opening could be a “stretch.”
While the cost, Cline says, is hard to calculate until they know what the temporary facilities’ future is, Gradisar says the city council will be reimbursing the rescue mission for the cost of operation.
“The city is not in the business of homeless shelters,” Gradisar explained. “But, we are in the business of keeping our citizens. So, when we get these kinds of cold spells, we need to get something going.”