PUEBLO – After going 4 months without an emergency warming shelter for the homeless, the City of Pueblo looks ready to buy a property for a new one. There are two properties included in the purchase, the Bargain Box at 331 E. 4th Street and a second building directly north of at 515 Chester Street. Both are owned by the Assistance League of Pueblo.
Councilman Mark Aliff has led a number of public meetings on Pueblo’s homeless since the City chose not to renew the temporary use permit given to the Pueblo Rescue Mission to operate a shelter in the old Salvation Army building at 520 W. 13th Street.
Aliff did not name which organization would operate the shelter. However, he said he hopes to see the facility opened by November 15, ahead of the cold winter temperatures.
“That was the goal from the very beginning was to get a shelter open and running by the time winter gets here, and this looks like we could get it done.”
He said the smaller building on Chester Street would be easiest to convert and he expected that it would be the first to open.
The buildings are located in a commercial/industrial zoned area. Business owners nearby told us they worry the move could hurt their interests.
Jim Neighbors owns Better Rate Transmissions just across the street from the proposed shelter site.
“I’ve got two bronze stars, I’m one of this town’s most decorated veterans and the Home of Heroes is treating me to run me out of business,” Neighbors said when asked about the proposal.
He explained that he’s had a number of negative encounters with homeless persons living in camps along Fountain Creek. He worries that by concentrating all of the city’s homeless in one place, customers will not want to frequent his business.
“All of the homeless people are going to look at my shop like its a candy store, they’re gonna see what they can steal, they don’t care about the damage.”
He’s not the only one concerned about crime. Jim Sharp owns Sharpies Pawn across the street diagonally from the Bargain Box. He showed us the numerous places where his back fence had been cut open by homeless men coming up from the creek looking to steal from him.
Sharp tracked down one man at the soup kitchen last year after the man had who stolen a bicycle from him. He had surveillance video and could clearly identify the suspect, but Sharp couldn’t convince an officer to come and arrest him.
He didn’t want to be critical of the police and said he understands the pressures on Pueblo’s criminal justice system.
“What are you going to do with them? You know, are you going to put them in an overcrowded jail? There’s no way for them to ever pay restitution,” Sharp said. “But it is a crime element, it really doesn’t matter what it is, you still become a victim from the homeless.”
Aliff explained that the two properties would be used to create a transitional shelter designed to get people off the streets and self-sufficient.
“The plan is for it to have 24-hour security and a fence,” Aliff said. “I believe that the shelter will be a good neighbor rather than a bad neighbor.”
Pueblo City Council will hold the first reading for the purchase of the properties Tuesday night. A final vote would be held October 22.