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Brutal Winter, Economic Conditions Take Toll on CO Shelters

February 19, 2008

Grand Junction, CO - Tough economic times and another brutal winter have left Colorado's homeless shelters overwhelmed, and they're bracing for another cold snap this weekend.

Teresa Black at the community shelter in Grand Junction says it's been one of the wettest, coldest seasons in recent memory.

"Couple the cold with low service industry wages and high housing costs and we've kind of got the mix for the perfect storm here."

Black says many people in the state's booming towns end up in shelters like hers because of a lack of affordable housing.

"We don't have rental housing that's available. We don't have rental housing that's affordable."

She says a big problem is that funding for shelters and affordable housing programs hasn't kept up with increasing costs.

"It has remained stagnant while the growth has been occurring. So, it's doing a lot more with less right now."

She says a record for the most people staying overnight in the shelter was set back in October. By January, that record had been eclipsed by another 20 people, pushing the shelter to its safety capacity limit.

She says there are plans to add more affordable housing units in the next two to three years, but few people can wait that long.

Eric Mack/Kevin Clay, Public News Service - CO