CANON CITY — There could be cold nights ahead for some low-income and homeless families in Canon City. It is because of a very pricey electric bill and the looming threat of a power shutdown. It is part of an expensive disagreement rooted in good intentions aimed at aiding people struggling to afford housing.
"A labor of love that's expanded over the years,” During the off-season from October to March, the owner of Prospectors RV Park, Rhonda Shirado offers discounted prices to low income and homeless families. They stay in her cabins or in their own campers and trailers.
Last year while serving on a board looking for solutions to homelessness there was discussion about expanding the number of people served at the RV park. "The decision was made that we would open our doors to basically house anybody that was homeless in Canon City, because we thought, at the time we were going to get some support."
"At that time it was decided that wasn't the best solution," said Ashley Smith, Canon City’s Mayor Pro Tem and Mayor-elect. She focused a lot on homeless issues during her campaign. She is complimentary of Shirado's passion for helping the homeless, but says her experience was City Council deciding to look for more permanent options. "It wasn't a really practical solution in the end for taxpayer money and we decided to look for something that would be more local where they could be closer to the services they need." She says there was no official approval from City Council memebers.
Whatever the version, Shirado went through a winter with more people temporarily living on the property than in previous years. The electric bill skyrocketed. "The bill rose and rose and rose last year and I've been carrying that outstanding debt with Black Hills for the whole year paying it ourselves and trying to chip away at the approximate $35,000 that got accumulated from last year."
Good intentions now with a big price tag threatening the smaller number of people she’s trying to help this year. Black Hills Energy was allowing her to carry the balance, but a couple of week ago said a majority needed to be paid. If the power is cut, more than 70 people may not be able to stay while also having nowhere to go.
Shirado came up with $10 thousand, but still has to find thousands more. The latest effort is this GoFundMe page titled Housing the Homeless.