Carbondale homeless support group preps for cold |

Carbondale homeless support group preps for cold

Ryan Summerlin

While impending cold weather means the holiday season and ski resorts opening for some, for others it’s a scramble to survive the harsh winter elements.

The fledgling Carbondale Homeless Assistance has been preparing to support the town’s homeless through the freezing winter.

The organization formed last winter out of concern for Carbondale’s residents without roofs.

Lynn Kirchner, founder of CHA, said the group has supported up to a dozen homeless people in town. And in the last year the group has progressed in several key areas.

CHA has spent the summer preparing for winter. It held a book sale during Carbondale’s Potato Days on Saturday, hoping for the same success it had during a book sale over the summer that brought in nearly $3,000.

The group also held a winter camping gear drive, amassing a stockpile of sleeping bags, tents, heavy-duty winter clothing and other camping gear.

Last winter, CHA purchased hotel rooms for the homeless on nights when the temperature sank below zero. Kirchner is now trying to estimate how many hotel stays the group will be able to provide this winter. Last winter CHA bought nearly a week’s worth of accommodations, she said.

Though first looking into punch passes for showers at the Carbondale Recreation Center, the organization ended up buying three membership passes, allowing a few of its “habitat challenged” people to take full advantage of the facility, said Kirchner.

And instead of duplicating the efforts of many other support organizations in the Roaring Fork Valley, CHA has focused on connecting that valuable information to the people who can use it.

Along those lines, the organization recently updated its Roaring Fork Valley resource guide, a one-sheet listing that’s hoped to cover all the resources a person in need would require.

This includes information on food pantries, shelters, information on WIC and food stamps, free community meals, health-care services, housing programs, legal camping locations, a women’s shelter and numbers for several crisis lines.

In addition to the free community meals already offered, CHA started another monthly community meal, which is served every third Saturday at Faith Lutheran Church from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

This community meal has consistently been drawing about 25 to 30 people, both homeless and from the rest of the community, and the group is working to make it a weekly meal.

Kirchner is seeking other community organizations to volunteer on Saturdays to expand the community meals.

In other situations CHA has also helped make RV repairs, helped pay for a veterinary bill, paid for gasoline and found more individual ways to support the homeless.

“We’ve helped them with everything from getting signed up for Medicaid to getting on the waiting list for senior housing,” said Kirchner.

“We’ve really opened the community up to who these people are, and I think the community has really warmed up to the homeless situation rather than feeling threatened by it,” she added.

“We’ve put names and faces to these individuals, and I think that has helped the community recognize that these people have a story and aren’t that different from you and me.”

The group has made huge leaps and bounds since it started, “but sometimes it still feels like we’re not doing enough,” she said.

CHA has a variety of avenues to accept donations. People can donate directly to CHA’s account at Alpine Bank. Donations are also accepted at Amore Realty, Kirchner’s business. And CHA has accounts at Miser’s Mercantile and Ragged Mountain Sports to be sold to raise money for the organization.

Donations can also be made directly to the homeless at the Lutheran Church, and CHA is seeking donations in the form of gift cards to Carbondale’s “quick and easy eateries.”

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