Volunteers at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on Saturday morning collected vanloads of donated goods from hundreds of residents to support people living homeless in Durango.
The Neighbors in Need Alliance collected sleeping bags, sweaters, socks, backpacks, tents and tarps – all of it donated within a few hours and hauled in about half-a-dozen trips from the corner of East Third Avenue and Ninth Street to storage at Manna soup kitchen.
Don Hassemer, a volunteer with the Neighbors in Need Alliance, said 124 donors gave an estimated value of $21,256 worth of gear, he said after accounting for each donation.
Marsh Bull brought a duffel bag filled with coats, sweaters and gloves that had been stored in a closet for years. He and his wife weren’t using the clothes, so the two of them spent Saturday morning organizing what they use and what they didn’t need.
Bull brought the latter to St. Mark’s. “I’m just trying to help,” he said.
Tim Sargent, who’s been living homeless in Durango for years, said, “it’s heart warming” to see people donate unused gear. He’s experienced a lot of “negative energy” invested in addressing issues related to homelessness in the past few years, he said. But Saturday was a marked change.
“With positive energy, there’s bound to be a solution,” he said. “It makes everybody’s life easier.”
Hassemer said he thought to organize a donation drive after seeing one work so well to assist migrants at the border of New Mexico and Mexico, where people came together to donate truckloads of supplies within a week.
Saturday’s donation drive shows that “there are all kinds of ways to help – housing isn’t always the solution,” Sargent said. He lives at a designated sleeping area south of Durango off County Road 213 (La Posta Road) and said many people who have established camp on the property don’t want to be moved again – the process can be traumatic.
It’s helpful for people to get gear they need to survive – it creates opportunities for people to think about getting a job, addressing illnesses or finding more permanent housing, Sargent said.
A local church donated 20 portable heaters and has offered to refill the propane it takes to run them, something Sargent said he’s more than thankful for. Someone donated a water jug, something Sargent said will help people living at the La Posta property with access to fresh water.
The community needs more education about people living homeless in Durango, Bull said. Attending public meetings is a good way to learn more about the needs of the community, he said.
Anyone interested in donating goods for people living homeless may bring canned goods, hand warmers, socks and gloves to Singing with Santa on Friday in downtown Durango. Manna soup kitchen and the Business Improvement District are scheduled to host the event from 5:45 to 7:30 p.m.
Any unaccounted for gear from Saturday’s donation drive will be given to the Salvation Army in Durango.