Homeless shelter capacity dwindle amid colder temperatures

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DENVER — Across the street from Coors Field, a row of tents is spread along Wazee Street where dozens of homeless people have been residing for nearly two weeks.

Rachel, a 21-year-old Colorado native, was among that group Wednesday morning.

“I’ve been struggling on and off with this since I was 16,” Rachel said.

She’s experienced homelessness many times in the last five years, but surviving on the streets this time around will be a little different.

“This is the first time I’ve ever been out here during winter,” Rachel said.

She’s not alone. There are more than 6,000 people experiencing homeless in the Denver metro, with more than 1,500 of them without shelter.

“Tents aren’t obviously a really great way to be OK. It’s cold, very cold, and a curtain-like material isn’t going to keep anybody safe from what winter brings,” Rachel said.

Cooling temperatures and more pandemic-related instances of homelessness have overwhelmed some shelters.

The Denver Rescue Mission reported decreasing capacity on Thursday, according to their spokeswoman Nicole Tschetter.

“We’re able to shelter around 824 men overnight. Last night, Wednesday evening, we had around 700 men stay with us, which was an increase from the night before, where we had around 642. So, we’re definitely seeing numbers start to tick up,” Tschetter said.

Meanwhile, Coloradans being housed at the Denver Coliseum, which served as an emergency shelter during the pandemic, will have to find another place to stay as services there will come to an end Dec. 3 ahead of preparations for the upcoming National Western Stock Show.

At last report, 118 of the 300 men staying at the coliseum have been transitioned to a different shelter or facility, according to Angie Nelson, the deputy director of the Housing Stability and Homeless Resolution for City of Denver.

In Boulder, the two Mother House Shelters are also adjusting to capacity limits.

“Last night, the temperature dropped to 17 degrees,” said Lisa Sweeney-Miran, executive director of Mother House.

As of Thursday, both of their shelters are at capacity. Their Lodge shelter is now a 24/7 operation.

While temperatures are cooling down, the colder months are still ahead of us.

Rachel is making it a goal to find a shelter to stay warm in.