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BID’s efforts helped address homelessness

Walsworth

During the summer of 2016, the Durango Business Improvement District implemented a three-part plan to address panhandling in Downtown Durango. Here are the results of those efforts.

The first part of the plan was the Make it Count campaign, which asked the public to consider donating to local charities instead of to panhandlers. BID believes the best way to help someone in need is to support local programs and services.

To make it easy to donate to local charities, BID asked local businesses to host a donation box. I am happy to report that 35 businesses partnered in this effort. From June to September, between 1,500 and 2,000 people answered the call and made donations of their spare change, which added up to nearly $800.

Last week, BID proudly gave 100 percent of the donated funds to the Volunteers of America Durango Community Shelter.

“The Make it Count campaign has provided not only monetary support for these vital services but also helped increase community awareness around homelessness. It is so important that we continue to discourage panhandling and encourage donating to local charities,” director Rachel Bauske said.

The second part of the plan was the hiring of a homeless outreach coordinator who interacted with people panhandling downtown to help them access local services and also attempted to work with panhandlers to curb any illegal behavior.

The final part of BID’s plan was the creation of the Downtown Ambassador program. The ambassadors worked to make people feel welcome in downtown by greeting them with a smile and providing information on shopping, dining, events and more. Over the summer, the ambassadors worked a collective 572 hours and interacted with at least 3,500 people. Furthermore, every single interaction was a positive experience. BID sincerely thanks the Durango Chamber of Commerce for its financial support of the Ambassador Program.

The Make it Count donation boxes will remain in place to allow the community to make donations. If your business wants to get involved, email me at timw@downtowndurango.org. BID is working on an idea to double or triple the donations next year.

BID plans to work with a homeless outreach coordinator again next summer. The Downtown Ambassador program will also be continued, and BID has set aside more funds in its 2017 budget to allow for ambassadors to be on the job even more.

Additionally, BID is a proud member of the Durango Homeless Coalition, which is charged with addressing the larger issue of homelessness in our community. The coalition’s goal is to make homelessness brief, rare and non-reoccurring.

I am proud of BID’s work this past summer and especially thankful to the businesses, locals and visitors who supported our work.

timw@downtowndurango.org. Tim Walsworth is the executive director of the Durango Business Improvement District.

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