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Aspen overnight shelter, detox set to open

With temperatures dipping into the single digits this week, the overnight homeless center couldn’t open soon enough with its winter service set to begin Wednesday.

The 12-bed facility and four-bed detox facility will be overseen by Recovery Resources at the Schultz Health and Human Services building by Aspen Valley Hospital. The winter opening was slightly hung up by a bathroom upgrade and construction work at the building, according to Lindsay Maisch, the county’s director of human services, who gave Pitkin County commissioners her department’s quarterly update Tuesday.

“I think it’s critical to get people in the shelter,” said Pitkin County Commissioner Patti Clapper. “The temperatures for this time of the year are outrageously low.”



The National Weather Service on Tuesday forecast overnight temperatures in Aspen to be as cold as minus-4 degrees on Friday and in single digits the other days. Wind-chill factors were predicted to make it more colder, according to the NWS.

County Manager Jon Peacock said efforts were ongoing to provide a shelter and bed elsewhere for homeless residents until the opening.



TEAM EFFORT

The combination of the overnight shelter and detox, with the existing day center, is the result of an intergovernmental agreement among the county, Aspen Valley Hospital, as well as the Aspen, Basalt, and Snowmass municipalities. The entities on Nov. 4 blessed a proposal that funds the shelter and detox operations for $835,530 through May.

“Detox is one side, and the winter overnight shelter and the Resilience Center (the homeless day center) is on the other,” said Maisch. “There’s a fishbowl office in the middle, so you can see both and what’s going on.”

Previous overnight homeless shelters in Aspen would not accept guests if they were under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The hybrid set-up with detox next to the overnight shelter will eliminate that barrier, she said.

“There were a lot of things that prevented people from getting into winter overnight shelter,” she said. “This would create a solution where the only thing that would not allow you in is if you’re aggressive or you’re making open threats, so otherwise you could go to detox.”

In December 2021, the overnight shelter at Aspen Chapel closed due to an omicron breakout and did not re-open, leaving the county and Recovery Resources scrambling to find hotel rooms for the homeless population.

“Last year, at the Chapel, we had one night with 13 people. Ultimately, we had from 9-12 people every night,” according to Recovery Resources’ proposal for putting the shelter and detox under one roof.

Recovery Resources and the county paid for the rooms last winter through funds it received from the Emergency Solutions Grants Program under the CARES Act. Not having that grant money available this year posed a new challenge.

“Managing people in hotels was very difficult,” said the proposal from Recovery Resources, which was founded in 2016 and provides support services in the Roaring Fork Valley and Summit County. “Although non-congregate shelter is not ideal, we do not have any options in Aspen for non-congregate currently due to no housing and no affordable housing.”

SERVICES CONNECTED

The overnight shelter will open daily at 8 p.m., and the detox center will operate 24 hours a day. The overnight shelter will be open through May 30. The third component, the day center, will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week providing people with warm showers, laundry, access to a hot meal, case management, and access to recovery support services.

“The reason for this change is due to a decrease in admits to the Withdrawal Management (detox) program, and an increased need for emergency, winter overnight shelter. Each program serves marginalized and vulnerable populations who are facing struggles with homelessness, risk of homelessness, addiction, and trauma,” said the proposal from Recovery Resources. “These programs provide a different set of services, but all services are connected and coordinated through the Resilience Center. All three program areas focus on helping people build the skills and healthy coping strategies they need to thrive beyond adversity.”

Recovery Resources refers to as the homeless day center as the Resilience Center, which until recently had been operating four days a week.

“Moving forward, these Recovery Resources Resilience Center will always be funded through diverse revenue sources, from contracts to grants to donations,” said the proposal. “This blended fundraising strategy is most sustainable for us because we can tap into support from government, public, and private sources. If one area of fundraising falls short, we can look to the other sources to cover the deficit.”

As well, staff who work in the detox center also will help run the overnight and day shelters. According to the proposal, that arrangement will allow Recovery Resources to focus on “cross-training existing Withdrawal Management staff, so that they can have more flexibility and expertise to serve clients where the need is greatest. This investment will also empower staff to gain valuable experience, purpose, and professional certifications.”


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