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Durango outreach program offering free transportation for Purple Cliffs residents

Nonprofit will help those in need get to destinations around town
The 12-passenger van Community Compassion Outreach will use to transport Purple Cliffs residents is paid for with the Centura Health grant. (Courtesy of Donna Mae Baukat)

Durango-based Community Compassion Outreach Inc., in a partnership with the Coordinated Council on Homelessness and Manna soup kitchen, is offering transportation to homeless residents living at Purple Cliffs, south of Durango.

The news comes the same week the city of Durango and La Plata County commissioners met to discuss the closure of the Purple Cliffs camp, scheduled for Sept. 30.

“We can take them (Purple Cliffs residents) anywhere they need to go in town,” said Donna Mae Baukat, president and founder of Community Compassion Outreach. “We’ll be posting a sign at Purple Cliffs to let them know, and they can call and set up an appointment with us. We only have one driver right now and one 12-passenger van that we purchased through funding granted by Centura Health, but I hope to have more in the future.”

The grant given to Community Compassion Outreach was for $100,000, which would cover the cost of the van and transportation expenses over the next year.

One of Community Compassion Outreach’s first goals since purchasing the van is to take care of the families who are being forced to vacate the area.

“We want to make sure the families and the children are taken care of,” Baukat said. “That’s our first priority. We’ll take them wherever they need to go within Durango and the surrounding area.”

Besides families, Baukat says others can be picked up from Purple Cliffs and taken to their local destination, though the passengers are expected to be on their best behavior.

“We will not deal with any aggressive individuals,” she said. “No one under the influence is allowed in the van.”

There will also be limited space for belongings inside the van, so Baukat said passengers must bring only what they need in their backpacks.

“I know it will be hard for them to leave some of their belongings behind,” she said. “I’m looking into renting a storage space, so they can store some of their stuff and not worry about their things getting stolen or destroyed at Purple Cliffs.”

Baukat said her organization is looking into continuing the transportation service for homeless residents after the Purple Cliffs exodus, especially for children enrolled in school.

“We’re looking at partnering with Durango District 9-R to set up some kind of a transportation system for the children who need to get to and from school every day,” she said.

Baukat also hopes her organization will be able to help Durango’s homeless population with much-needed mental health services.

“So many of Purple Cliffs’ population suffers from mental health problems,” she said. “We have a program called Recovery Empowerment Support Services Team, or RESST, which can help with the mental health and substance abuse issues that can cause or are caused by homelessness. We’re hoping to get more drivers in the future, ones who are part of the RESST program and are trained as peer-support professionals.”

“We’re also looking into recovery housing,” said Roberta Hall, Community Compassion Outreach’s marketing and grant manager. “There are so few options in Durango at the moment.”

For more information about Community Compassion Outreach’s services, visit communitycompassionoutreach.com.

molsen@durangoherald.com

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