PUEBLO – It’s not a perfect solution, but Councilman Mark Aliff said he’s relieved to know the City of Pueblo finally determined a plan to provide a warming shelter for the homeless.
“Well, I feel good about the fact what we’re going to get people off the streets in this cold, cold weather and get them in somewhere warm,” Aliff said.
Tuesday, just a day after city council unanimously passed an emergency ordinance approving the shelter, Aliff told News 5 the Pueblo Rescue Mission was chosen to operate the shelter. He also said the city is in talks with a contractor to provide an adapted semi trailer that would give the homeless an option to shower.
Aliff also said that hiring needs for the mission will likely delay the shelter’s opening. He expects it to open in 10-14 days.
It will include a pair of large tents, propane heaters and port-a-potties located in the parking lot of the old Wayside Cross Rescue Mission building on Fourth Street. Council pushed forward with the plan, despite the wishes of neighbors like Lee Gladney, whose family has operated Pueblo Bearing Services for nearly 70 years.
“I think we’re just really rolling out a red carpet for the homeless to come to downtown Pueblo. I’m not saying that we don’t need to help these people, but placing it in downtown Pueblo is not the place to put it,” Gladney said.
Aliff, who’s led the charge on finding solutions to a growing homelessness problem, said he doesn’t see that as an issue.
“I don’t think that five months at that location is going to create any enormous problems that is going to cause anybody very much grief at all,” he said.
His reasoning for that opinion is security. Each tent will have two private security workers at night, in addition to one person at the site during the day.
On top of that, the Pueblo Rescue Mission has experience in this field.
Kathy Cline helped run the warming shelter in 2017. She said having trained staff is imperative to a successful warming shelter.
“We cannot do this without staff and people that have worked with the homeless in the past,” Cline said.
And for a city that’s endured a handful of squatter-set fires in abandoned homes, Aliff said he believes staff and security will be enough to protect the homeless from the risk of fires associated with propane heaters.
“We’ll work very closely with our fire department and make sure that everything’s safe,” he said. “I mean, we obviously wouldn’t open it up if we felt that there was going to be a problem with safety.”
Right now, it does not appear the site will include physical and mental health resources.
The tents will be separated, one for men and one for women, and there isn’t word yet on what will be offered for families.