We certainly see and hear about homelessness in many metropolitan areas. Unfortunately, we also see it in non-urban areas. The challenge of homelessness and housing instability is growing in Weld County. How many people are currently homeless in the United States? How many people are currently homeless in Weld County? How many of them are families, youth, or veterans? The answers to these questions, and more, can be answered by Point-in-Time (PIT) counts. Of the 251 persons surveyed in the PIT count at the end of January, the number of people found unsheltered was 28. Fifty-five people were in transitional housing and 97 were in emergency shelters. It’s important to note that these numbers only capture those in shelters and found on the streets. It does not capture all those living with family and friends who are doubled and tripled up.
The PIT count is a federally mandated, annual, nationwide survey of the number and characteristics of homeless persons at a single point in time on a single night in January. Those aforementioned numbers mean that it is essential that the United Way of Weld County (UWWC) Housing Navigation Center cold weather shelter in Evans remains open until April 15. There have been 442 unduplicated guests since Nov. 1, 2018, when the shelter opened for the winter. A total of 3,750 meals were served in February at the cold weather shelter, with 12,399 meals served since Nov. 1.
Whether you have served a meal at the cold weather shelter or stopped by to bring breakfast items, you can’t help but be taken back by the number of veterans, men and women who get up early to go to work and the number of young couples and the people who are over retirement age.
With the April 1 opening of UWWC’s Housing Navigation Center (HNC), located at the TriPointe Business Center, 3001 8th Ave. # 285 in Evans in the same building as the cold weather shelter, the opportunity to help the homeless get into housing is a reality. UWWC will be providing resources such as short-term locker storage, mail collection, computer access, and a central place for people to meet with various agencies in our community that assist those experiencing homelessness or housing instability. Construction will also begin at the HNC in April for showers and a laundry area. UWWC is committed to a Housing First philosophy, assisting people in getting back into permanent housing and making homelessness rare, short-lived, and non-reoccurring.
Homelessness means members of our community cannot fully contribute their unique talents and gifts to Weld County. Too many households are having a hard time keeping their housing and too many neighbors want to help, but don’t know how. Weld County has some of the best service providers in the country. Please consider volunteering and supporting one of them or United Way of Weld County and join the fight toward alleviating homelessness and housing instability in Weld County.
United Way and Catholic Charities are still fundraising to keep the cold weather shelter open until April 15. The goal is to raise $75,000. To date, $50,000 has been raised for the shelter. To donate to the shelter, visit the United Way’s GoFundMe page at https://www.gofundme.com/homeless-cold-weather-shelter. Donations are also being accepted by United Way at unitedway-weld.org or (970) 353-4300 and Catholic Charities at (970) 353-6433. Please specify cold weather shelter. One-hundred percent of the money donated will go toward the cold weather shelter.
It costs approximately $15 a night to provide shelter for one person at the cold weather shelter. One person, one family or one veteran sleeping in the cold is too many. Please consider joining us on our mission to support them.
Brandy Chaparro is the Housing Navigation Center coordinator for United Way of Weld County.