The onset of severe winter weather is prompting local shelters to accommodate an uptick in individuals looking for warmth and safety throughout Boulder County.
Boulder County was under a winter storm warning extending to 9 a.m. Friday, with 3 to 7 additional inches of snow forecast to fall overnight along with bone-chilling temperatures as low as 7 above zero, according to the National Weather Service.
Longmont nonprofit HOPE, or Homeless Outreach Providing Encouragement, provides overnight shelter for homeless individuals throughout the year. In order to stay at the shelter, clients have to abide by certain guidelines, including working with a case manager and hold a full-time job.
During the winter, circumstances are a bit different, said navigation shelter director Laura Denton. The shelter opens its doors to anyone seeking a warm place to stay, regardless of if they’ve met the usual criteria.
“It’s quite a bit busier,” Denton said. “Everyone working together to keep the clients safe and warm helps us not burn ourselves out, which is kind of our goal this winter.”
HOPE was open all day Thursday and will remain open all day Friday for a 48-hour operation period. Denton said donations of supplies like sleeping bags and socks are helpful to receive during the winter, along with volunteers.
For the next few months, HOPE staff is considering moving back the time they ask their clients to leave from 7:30 a.m. to around 10 a.m., on especially cold mornings. Denton said this would give clients a chance to sleep in, a perk available to them now as part of the day shelter HOPE is running through Friday.
“They’re really thankful to be here,” she said of the clients. “We have the TV on and we’re playing cards (right now). It’s very chill compared to the night shelter.”
Jessica Bennett, executive director of Agape Longmont Safe Haven, said the nonprofit has a collection of blankets and coats available during extremely cold weather. The organization also recently added a fridge to its front porch, free to anyone needing food, that gets restocked every three to four days.
“We prep for winter time, honestly, all year,” Bennett said. “Colorado winters are no joke. You’re behind the ballgame if you start prepping in August – you’re never going to be ready in time.”
Agape offers a year-round program with guaranteed shelter as well as day shelter services twice a week. This year, Bennett said she’s done more and more referrals to other local sites and services as a way to keep Agape’s day shelter clients plugged into community resources.
“All of us that work in homeless services want to find a solution for people,” she said.
Boulder Shelter for the Homeless announced in a news release Thursday it would open for Critical Weather Night Shelter Thursday and Friday nights. This allows capacity to increase from 160 to 180 people per night and lets the shelter temporarily forgo Coordinated Entry requirements.
Additionally, the shelter plans to move 30 housing-track clients to the Millennium Harvest House Boulder hotel for the severe weather season, which will let the nonprofit open its emergency overnight shelter to a total of 210 people in need.
“With this winter storm, we really felt that it’s the shelter’s responsibility to do as much as possible for the folks experiencing homelessness in our community,” said Boulder Shelter Development Officer Katie Randall.
The winter weather led all Boulder city facilities to close at 4 p.m. Thursday. The higher education realm was also affected as all Front Range Community College campuses closed for in-person classes and services at 4 p.m. Thursday.
Also, the St. Vrain Valley School District announced late Thursday that schools will be closed to in-person learning on Friday.
“Due to forecasted snowfall and deteriorating and icy road conditions, all schools will be closed to in-person learning tomorrow,” an SVVSD announcement says. “Friday, November 18, will be a shortened online learning day for all students.”
District schools are scheduled to be closed next week for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Snow was forecast to taper off Friday morning, with the day’s high expected to reach 23 degrees, with a Friday night low of just 8 degrees. Skies should be clear this weekend, with the high climbing back to 48 by Sunday.
Boulder Daily Camera
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