Although it’s barely fall, nighttime temperatures have been dropping and already, advocates for homeless people are seeing a need for sleeping bags and tents to help those who have to pass the night in the cold.
“We’re just trying to keep people from dying,” Jim Renfrow, board member of the Montrose Lighthouse, said Friday.
The Lighthouse, a seasonal shelter, provides overnight lodging for those without a home, but does not open until Nov. 1. Additionally, even after it opens, the beds can fill, plus for a variety of reasons, some people cannot stay there.
Thus, the need for sleeping bags, tents, jackets and warm clothing.
Although not ideal, the Lighthouse and Shepherd’s Hand, another charity, traditionally provide sleeping bags and body bags. The body bags, with cardboard, provide extra insulation.
“It’s getting to be that time of year where, even though (the Lighthouse) is starting Nov. 1, some people are not able to get in there,” board president Garey Martinez said.
People who do not follow the rules at Lighthouse are disinvited. Other times, individual psychological conditions might mean they are not comfortable enough around other people.
But the cold does not differentiate and the need to help prevent hypothermia deaths remains.
“The only thing we can do is give them a tent, give them a sleeping bag. And a tent, at least it gives them a chance out there when it is cold,” Martinez said.
“In the last two weeks, I’ve already gone through nine (bags). In a winter, we’ll go through 50, 60, 70. It’s hard to put a number on it.”
Martinez is also the founder of Shepherd’s Hand. This charity provides breakfast and lunch to all comers each weekday, as well as a place to do laundry, get a shower, and pick items from an extensive food pantry.
The Shepherd’s Center is open to the entire community and also provides office space to other nonprofits.
What it does not do is provide overnight shelter; that is the role of the Lighthouse, which uses dormitory-style housing at the former Brown Center, on the northern reaches of the Montrose city limits.
Shepherd’s Center is the pick-up site for those who will be spending the night at Lighthouse once it opens for the season.
Martinez said Lighthouse needs more volunteers to help drive the transport van starting Nov. 1. Intake is at 5 p.m. and the van departs at 5:30 each night the shelter is open.
One need felt by both charities is one that cannot be filled the same way as before. In July, Lighthouse stalwart volunteer Chris Hauck died.
“One thing missing right now is our friend Chris. He left a big hole to fill,” Martinez said.
No one can replace Hauck, but Martinez is confident there are others with financial acumen who could take on the grant-writing and accounting role Hauck held.
Right now, the volunteer accountant at Shepherd’s Hand is doing double duty by keeping abreast of Lighthouse financials.
To help meet the charities’ related needs, the community can donate sleeping bags, tents and other winter items at the Shepherd’s Center, 505 S. Second St., between 9 a.m. — 2 p.m., Monday — Friday.
Those interested in volunteering, whether as drivers or for bookkeeping, can call Martinez at the center, 970-275-7215.
To make a monetary donation, visit shepherdshandmontrose.org, or, for Lighthouse, contact Martinez.
Those who need a hot meal, food boxes, or other services can visit the Shepherd’s Center between about 7 a.m. — 5 p.m. weekdays.
Breakfast is served weekdays from 8 — 9 a.m. and lunch is from 11 a.m. — noon. Food is catered from an onsite food trailer that is properly certified.
Food distribution — set up so that people can “shop” from shelves for what they need — is from 9:30 a.m. — 12:30 p.m., Mondays and Thursdays. There are no income criteria; the only requirement is hunger.
Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.