The Pueblo Rescue Mission’s brief, but controversial stay near downtown is ending. The City of Pueblo notified Mission leaders earlier this month that their temporary special use permit to operate a homeless shelter at the former Salvation Army building near 13th and Elizabeth would expire May 31 and that there would not be enough time to execute the necessary public input process to extend the permit, thereby ending the Mission’s ability to offer food, showers, and overnight shelter for the area’s homeless.
For Rescue Mission president and CEO Jackie Jaramillo, the cessation of homeless services and the eventual abandonment of the building by July 1 represents a victory for so-called NIMBYs, or members of the public who may support the shelter, but "Not In My Back Yard." "People don’t want the homeless traffic downtown, and I understand that, but there has to be a place for us to be able to serve people," Jaramillo told News 5. Since the shelter opened in January on an emergency, temporary basis, nearby residents and businesses complained of excessive loitering, fights, drug use, public intoxication, vagrancy, sleeping on private property, trash, and public urination and defecation by homeless utilizing the facility. "We just don’t have the support to keep our services going there, so we’re in the process of looking for a new location," Jaramillo said.
Beginning June 1, the shelter will still be able to offer restrooms and water for the homeless, and will be able to perform office functions, but feeding and sheltering them will not be allowed. "That was the only evening meal provided to the homeless in Pueblo," Jaramillo said, "and we will not be able to provide showers."
Jaramillo and city leaders say the search is on for a new, possibly permanent location for the Rescue Mission, preferably in an industrial area away from residential and commercial zones. "That’s critical," said Pueblo City Council member Mark Aliff, who is hosting a series of public meetings on the topic of homelessness. "We have buildings — CDOT just moved," said one meeting attendee. "They have that whole empty building on (North) Erie (Avenue). That’s an industrial place, it’s in nobody’s backyard."
Jaramillo says it is a heartbreaking conclusion to a months-long effort to try to generate public support for the shelter. "Even though we put an offer on the building and were pursuing purchasing the building, we’re now going to have to back out of that commitment to purchase because if we can’t operate the services we want to provide in that building, there’s no reason for us to stay in that building," Jaramillo said. "Without a homeless shelter, especially when we get to the winter months, it’s going to be a bad deal," Aliff added.