PUEBLO, Colorado — The Pueblo Cooperative Care Center gives away twice as many food donations today than it did before the pandemic. That busy flow of people is why the United Way of Pueblo County chose to look here for those who still haven't received a federal stimulus check.
"We thought that this would be a great focal point and we could filter the people through that are qualified for the program," said Paula Chostner, the Director of Fund Development and Campaign for the United Way of Pueblo County.
The US Treasury Department used information on file from 2019 federal tax returns to either mail or deposit the $1,200 stimulus payments in April. However, as Chostner points out, that system doesn't work for those who don't have a permanent address or income.
"They are not in the system," Chostner explained. "So, the Treasury Department has no way of accessing their contact information."
So, the United Way volunteers will meet with those experiencing homelessness at the center on Wednesdays to help them fill out the proper forms to receive a check. They list a permanent address as the Pueblo Rescue Mission. The mission then holds the checks securely until they can be picked up by the proper party.
Holly Sanders received a check a few weeks ago.
"I didn't think I'd get it," she said. "My aunt called me and said, I've got a check for you, and I'm like, what?"
Holly bought some winter clothes and other necessities. She was living in a tent earlier this year when a man she knows as the Peanut Butter Man stopped by with a sack lunch.
"And I just cried because nobody had shown us any kindness," she said.
She's been staying more recently at the Rescue Mission and just found out she qualified for a housing voucher through Posada. Holly also opened a bank account with her check, the first account she's had in years.
"You know, we're not all not wanting to better ourselves," she said. "Some of us are just stuck in a rut. So, if the community would just be a little more caring."
Chostner said her group has reached about 30 people in recent weeks. She estimates another 300 in Pueblo could benefit from it.
Her organization was awarded a grant from the United Way Worldwide to carry out the program. The volunteers will be at the Pueblo Cooperative Care Center each Wednesday from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. through October 14.