Homelessness in Glenwood Springs: Searching for solutions | PostIndependent.com

Homelessness in Glenwood Springs: Searching for solutions

Karen Peppers, director of Feed My Sheep, answers phone calls while preparing lunch at the shelter on Thursday morning.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

“We really were looking for the Goldilocks Zone,” longtime community activist Debbie Wilde said. “That sweet spot between being ambitious and realistic.”

That was the tone at the Glenwood Springs City Council’s work session Thursday concerning homelessness and ongoing detox efforts within the city and entire region.

Wilde, who served as executive director for the local nonprofit YouthZone for decades, recently partnered with the city on the issue of homelessness and the need for additional resources and detox facilities.

Wilde reported her initial findings to members of city staff and council, Thursday.

“The whole concept of detox … is a missing gap,” Wilde said. “That is where your emergency responders are getting so frustrated. We are using a lot of tools that really were not built for the purpose of trying to address this.”

According to correspondence from an Oct. 28 stakeholder meeting, the Glenwood Springs Police department stated that it struggled with individuals needing detox.

“Jails and hospitals are not appropriate [places] for detox,” the correspondence stated.

Emergency medical responders also reported “frequently” having to assist intoxicated patients lacking a safe place to get sober.

“The EMS wants to find a safe place for those individuals to take them to, for not only immediate care but also as a gateway to greater care,” the correspondence read.

Additionally, of the calls received, local emergency personnel believed roughly one in five needed a detox center.

Coincidence or not, Thursday’s work session occurred just days after Glenwood Springs voters overwhelmingly supported Ballot Issue 2A, which beginning Jan. 1 will impose a new sales tax of 20 cents per cigarette or $4 on a pack of 20 cigarettes sold. The passage of Ballot Issue 2A also means the assessment of a 40% sales tax on all other tobacco products including e-cigarettes.

Over 60% of Glenwood voters favored the ballot issue whereas less than 40% opposed it.

And, of the “up to $900,000” the new tax is expected to collect annually, the ballot language stated that those funds would go toward “detox facilities,” among other health-related assets.

Councilman Rick Voorhees, who advocated for the inclusion of detox facilities in 2A’s ballot language, believed it was not a Glenwood issue but instead a regional one.

“It’s a Roaring Fork and Colorado River valley problem,” Voorhees said. “If we can inventory some of the services that are out there, their availability and who does what, I think that would be a real advantage.”


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