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‘First step to full-time overnight shelter’

Anyone who has lived here for more than 15 minutes knows that city and county elected officials can’t get along. But this latest antagonism between the two over funding a volunteer-managed warming shelter near downtown should awaken all Durango neighborhoods to arbitrary intrusion into their neighborhoods.

I’ve been here for 36 years. If any elected official had been here half as long, he or she would be familiar with what happened to the neighborhood when St. Mark’s Episcopal Church opened a soup kitchen in the 1990s. It almost divided the congregation. Transients slept on porches, in garages and in the alley between Third and Fourth avenues, using the whole block as an outdoor toilet. The church’s soup kitchen then moved to the Sacred Heart Church. Different neighborhood. Same problems.

When Community Compassion Outreach advocates for a two-day a week warming shelter, it’s like every other pilot program in Durango. It’s the first step to a full-time overnight shelter. County commissioners thus wash their hands because it now is a city headache. The losers are the taxpayers and the residents. County officials thus manage to undermine city neighborhoods, shifting the problem.

Voters need to remind county commissioners they have a fiscal responsibility first to the people who live here, rather than the homeless, who will be attracted here. Taxpayers have already financed underused public buildings not within neighborhoods. Put them to good use rather than asking residents to shoulder this ever-growing burden.

Tom Darnell