Winter cold taking toll on homeless around valley

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) -- Thursday’s high was a cool 28 degrees, meaning our overnight lows are going to be downright dangerous. What started out as a mild winter is now taking its toll on many without homes around the Valley. The colder weather is affecting homeless shelters and soup kitchens.

There's no doubt these cooler temperatures are bringing more visitors to places like the Grand Valley Catholic Outreach and Homeward Bound. Their services can only provide warmth for a while, so some homeless find alternate ways of staying warm during the day.

"The volunteers at Catholic Outreach have a lot to do right now," Catholic Outreach communications director Barbara Mahoney said. "[During the winter], we see an increase in need for practically every service that we offer."

After a mild start to the winter, colder temperatures are beginning to wear down the homeless around the Valley.

"Overall we have increased to the point where we are in our overflow program," Homeward Bound executive director A.J. Johnson said.

Now, local shelters and soup kitchens are seeing more visitors searching for warmth.

"We’ll have upwards of 140 people show up here," Johnson said of the shelter.

Homeward Bound is partnering with a dozen local churches to help them keep up with the demand.

"We send 16 to 20 people out of the facility every night over to the churches and they take care of them overnight," Johnson said.

The Grand Valley Catholic Outreach is serving up to 310 meals at lunch, a considerable increase when compared to warmer weather days.

"We typically serve on average 250 individuals," Mahoney said.

These groups provide warmth in meals, showers, beds and clothes, but during the day it can be more difficult for the homeless to stay warm.

"If they're a family and their homeless, a lot of times their choice is to ride the bus," Mahoney said.

"Some of [the] businesses may welcome them and may welcome them until they have an issue with them," Mesa County Sheriff’s spokesperson Heather Benjamin added.

In the warmer months, local law enforcement issues trespassing tickets to those loitering outside of businesses, but it's a different issue when it gets cold.

"In the winter we do see an increase in those tickets being issued for people inside of the businesses," Benjamin said.

With the cold and snow just rolling in, it seems it could be a long winter season for some in our community.

For places like Homeward Bound, it’s monetary donations that keep them functioning. Johnson says it costs about 12 dollars per person per day for services.

Because of the high demand, Catholic Outreach is also looking for more adult glove and hat donations.

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