Charitable organizations, Glenwood Springs aim for collaboration on homelessness
Glenwood Springs City Council is set this Thursday to either approve or deny releasing grants, in their entirety, to three organizations that provide services to the local homeless population, as long as they can show they’re not contributing to dangerous activities.
Earlier this month, council withheld a portion of the allotted yearly grants to Catholic Charities, Salvation Army and LIFT-UP over specific concerns that some of their services could promote wildfires from illegal camping on the hillsides above town and other undesirable activity.
According to a 2018 city Financial Advisory Board (FAB) application summary, council awarded grants to 33 applicants for this year. The three entities receiving the largest grant funding from the city included the Glenwood Springs Historical Society and Frontier Museum ($20,000), Youth Zone ($17,000) and Youth Hockey Association ($12,000).
The FAB also recommended that Catholic Charities receive $10,000, Salvation Army $9,000 and LIFT-UP $7,000 in grant funding. However, council at its Oct. 4 meeting compromised by releasing just $2,500 to each of the three organizations ahead of this Thursday’s discussion to address some of the concerns.
LIFT-UP Assistant Director Debbie Wilde, who has worked in the field for 36 years, told the Post Independent that she was looking forward to Thursday’s council meeting and saw it as an opportunity where city councilors, members of the public and charitable organization representatives could come together to offer constructive input. More importantly, she said she hopes the participants can listen and learn from varying viewpoints.
“Nobody wins if we go to our corners and get more firmly convinced that we are the one that is right,” Wilde said. “We all win when we take the time to listen and learn and make decisions together.
“LIFT-UP is not going to change its mission of responding to basic human needs,” she added. “What LIFT-UP is doing is examining all the activities we do. We need to keep what works and move on from what does not.”
“We need to find our common ground — and it does exist — and move forward from there,” Wilde said.
“I was concerned that they were promoting the undesirable element of the homeless population, and I do not think that is the case,” Glenwood Springs Mayor Michael Gamba said at that Oct. 4 meeting. “They are very aware of the concerns both to businesses and to potential wildfire hazards that could happen if one of these camps starts a fire that burns down the hillside.
“I do think there has been some misunderstanding, at least on my part, as to what services they provided and how they deal with those people,” Gamba added.
The mayor and councilors agreed that the organizations provide crucial services in the community and that the issue of homelessness was, obviously, not unique to Glenwood Springs.
“I think the homelessness issue is a broader conversation,” City Councilor Shelley Kaup stated at that same Oct. 4 meeting.
“Fixing blame to one or two organizations is not going to get us where we need to go,” Councilor Rick Voorhees also added.
Glenwood Springs’ Salvation Army Caseworker Karen Lee told the Post Independent Tuesday that she saw Thursday’s meeting as an opportunity to educate and learn how to better work together to combat homelessness.
“There is always education components, and the whole idea is education does not work unless people are open to it,” Lee said. “This is community. It is only successful when more people participate, more people have ideas and more people put energy toward it.”
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