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Opening of Pueblo warming shelter brings up new safety concerns - KOAA.com | Continuous News | Colorado Springs and Pueblo

Opening of Pueblo warming shelter brings up new safety concerns

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PUEBLO -

The Pueblo Rescue Mission has officially opened their doors at the city's only warming shelter.

Despite single digit conditions, they have been without one all season.

On Monday, the first night they were open, about 20 people took advantage of the warm place to sleep but that's only a fifth of the shelter's capacity.

It can fit up to 100 men and women every night.

The Rescue Mission says they think many people don't realize they are now a low barrier shelter and will not be drug testing or charging any of their guests.

"Being a low barrier shelter means that we're not going to do UA's, definitely not going to drug test anybody, as long as they're able to behave and they're not going to disturb other people, they're welcome to stay with us for the night," Jackie Jaramillo, the Pueblo Rescue Mission's President and CEO said.

Moving forward, they are planning to open up their showers to guests by next week, since many homeless people in Pueblo haven't had a free place to get clean since last May.

But the new shelter, in the site of the former Salvation Army shelter on 13th Street, isn't exactly sitting well with its neighbors.

"For a permanent area, it should be somewhere else," Lorry Ann Calsadilla, a neighbor said.

Calsadilla has been living just down the street for about five years now.

"One night, my granddaughter was looking out the window, I don't know maybe she heard something, and someone was urinating outside," she said.

And she has seen it all.

"It shouldn't be in a residential area, I don't think, I think it should be in a commercial busy area or something, I don't know, it's just not safe for our kids I don't think," she said.

"I think it's a good idea for people that don't have any place to go, they certainly need someplace to go now that it's cold!" Kim Chavez, a cashier at Gopher Convenience said.

Businesses right across the street, like Gopher Convenience, are still nervous this could lead to more shoplifting.

"We had a lot of people hanging out in that area so I think we're going to have a little bit more than we normally do," Chavez said.

Calsadilla, surprised to see it open so quickly after watching the Hyde Park community say no to the shelter moving into their neighborhood back in November.

It's something she says, she never got a say in.

"I think they should have got some new opinions from people because it's our right too," she said.

But the Rescue Mission says, they didn't have to.

"Probably, strategically, we're better off not giving anyone a heads up," Jaramillo said.

They investigated almost 45 vacant buildings across the city but none of which came as an ideal situation, until the Salvation Army offered to lease their building.

"The usage for the property is grandfathered so we didn't have to go to public comment and we didn't have to do the things because it was already established by a prior organization," she said.

Addressing the safety concerns, they're planning to create a new baseline for behavior and boundaries. 

"We really are going to be very intentional about being good neighbors and starting in the next day or so, we're going to start policing the parking lot, making sure it's clean, setting boundaries for our guests," she said.

The Rescue Mission says, more often than not, the people that chose to stay at the shelter want to be completely invisible and aren't looking for trouble.

But moving forward, they'll be watching and monitoring the outside as well as the inside to be a good neighbor.

They are still looking for volunteers to help with this and other tasks to keep the shelter running. If you'd like to help or donate click here.

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