Withouta home,but notalone | PostIndependent.com

Withouta home,but notalone

At first glance, the Feed My Sheep Ministries hotel suite in West Glenwood looks the same as any other hotel room.A few cars are parked outside the room, a light shines through the curtains and occasionally, adult voices are audible through the door. Inside, the wall of the room is lined with several homeless men and women who chat, take showers and clean up before heading out to work.The room is rented by Feed My Sheep Ministries, a drop-in center for homeless people in the valley. It’s open during the week from 8 a.m. to noon and is funded by local churches including Alpine Resort Ministries.Most of the people who use the shelter earn income working at seasonal or construction jobs but do not have homes, said Karolyn Spencer, director of the program. They live on mountainsides in tents, vans, campers, cars, sheds, viaducts or caves. The shelter provides them with necessities such as a shower, electricity, access to a phone and mail.The shelter opened in December and serves between 16 and 25 people a day, Spencer said. The shelter has been visited more than 2,200 times since opening day, Spencer said.”Even if we did have an overnight shelter these guys wouldn’t need it,” Spencer said. “They’re strong enough and tough enough to camp out. They just use it as they need it.”More than 40 percent of the people who use the shelter work in Aspen. Oftentimes they get on the road by 5:30 a.m. to make sure they can hitch a ride with plenty of time to make it to work, Spencer said.Although Feed My Sheep Ministries has been open for less than a year, Spencer is seeing improvements in people who visit.Several people with medical conditions have reunited with their families, Spencer said.One man, who has struggled with alcoholism throughout his life, has been sober for three months, Spencer said.”He would come to me in tears,” Spencer said. “It’s hard to watch someone who seems so strong with his decision to not drink go out and drink. He made me understand that alcoholism really is a chronic disease.”Spencer is sympathetic to the conditions the men and women suffer from, but she’s not tolerant of alcohol abuse, drug abuse, violence or sexual assault.To protect herself, and what she deems her family, Spencer requires each person who comes to the shelter to sign a contract stating they will not violate her rules, which include no drinking, drug use or violence.So far, Spencer hasn’t had any problems, and she doesn’t anticipate any in the future.The people who use the shelter reinforce each other’s good behavior, Spencer said.Walking into the room feels more like walking into a living room than a hotel room. All of the people know each other and are very friendly.Many people think of homeless people as transients but most of them have been in the valley for years, Spencer said.”What the town doesn’t realize is that the homeless are very protective of their town,” Spencer said. “If they sense violence from someone who’s new to town, five or six of them will ask that person to leave.”Contact Ivy Vogel: 945-8515, ext. 534ivogel@postindependent.comOpportunities to helpAt the beginning of the summer, a church in Aspen donated 60 bags of food to Karolyn Spencer, director of Feed My Sheep ministires. The food is nearly gone and Spencer is having to stretch her resources until October, when the next donation comes in.Eight churches donate to Feed My Sheep Ministries. Spencer would like to have 12 churches – one for each month – to donate food and help pay the $1,500-a-month rent.Spencer needs canned food such as tuna packets, Spam products, canned meats and soups that can be eaten without being cooked.For more information or for a detailed list of goods that are needed, contact Karolyn Spencer at 984-9713.For more information or for a detailed list of goods that are needed, contact Karolyn Spencer at 984-9713.

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