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Winter warming shelter for unhoused to open twice weekly starting Tuesday

Nonprofit seeks volunteers to help with operations
Community Compassion Outreach, a nonprofit that helps people facing homelessness and poverty, is teaming up with Durango Christian Church to provide a twice-weekly temporary warming shelter to the unhoused in Durango as winter approaches. The shelter’s hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Fridays starting Tuesday. (Christian Burney/Durango Herald)

Community Compassion Outreach, a Durango-area nonprofit, is partnering with a church to provide a warming shelter twice weekly starting Tuesday.

A portion of the Durango Christian Church building at 255 East 11th St. will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Fridays where hot meals and beverages, phone charging, and a warm place to rest will be available. Dogs are welcome as long as they remain leashed and are walked routinely, said Donna Mae Baukat, president and founder of Community Compassion Outreach.

Manna soup kitchen will provide boxed lunches for guests to the warming shelter before 11 a.m. Tuesdays and Fridays, according to an email from Baukat. Free coffee and tea will also be provided.

“It will be a very good blessing for the community to have this,” she said.

She is seeking three volunteers to help supervise the church during the warming center’s open hours. Guests are not permitted in certain areas of the building where equipment is stored, and people who are intoxicated or behaving poorly will not be welcome.

Community Compassion Outreach and Durango Christian Church agreed to a set of ground rules to be followed for the duration of the temporary winter shelter’s operation.

Every four weeks, the program is to be reviewed. The church’s community room capacity is limited to 50 people in accordance with fire code, which might require some guests to leave early to provide fair access to all guests, Baukat’s email says.

Neither smoking nor vaping is allowed within 20 feet of church property and guests are required to sign in upon arrival, the email says.

Between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., Community Compassion Outreach peer coaches will be available, Baukat said.

The nonprofit’s peer support professionals, she said, have at least 60 hours of recovery coach training.

“Our peer support professionals in the Recovery Empowerment Support Services team have lived experiences with mental health as well as substance use,” she said. “And usually with substance use it’s concurring (with) mental health issues that causes their bad behavior.”

In group sessions, peer support coaches talk with clients about their struggles throughout the day and discuss strategies to improve their relationships.

“We might even show a TED Talk on depression, mindfulness and so on,” she said.

Community Compassion Outreach, which was founded in 2018, has a 12-passenger van it uses to provide transportation to families with children and adults experiencing homelessness, she said. The van was bought with a $100,000 grant awarded by Centura Health.

The nonprofit has four peer support professionals; one is bilingual and speaks Spanish; another is Native American and focuses on Native American outreach.

“We’ve been providing gaps in services, like somebody needs to get a blanket, tent, sleeping bag, meals, whatever,” Baukat said. “Every Saturday we feed about 15 people right now at Schneider Park. We’ve been doing that for almost four years now.”

She said her objective with the temporary warming shelter was not only to provide a safe place for the unhoused to rest, but also to put them in touch with client service providers. After the displacement of former residents of the Purple Cliffs homeless camp, it’s been difficult for some organizations to get a hold of their clients.

“I recently got a grant for $75,000, about 15 line items, and one of which is providing them with cellphones,” she said. “That would create the ability for them to stay in touch with their client service providers. It also would help them to get messages and reminders for doctors appointments and so on. And this is a neighborhood investment that I got a grant for a few days ago.”

Baukat said she is working with Collaborative Management Program, a statewide steering committee that is currently surveying families with children facing homelessness, toward those efforts.

Community Compassion Outreach is accepting donations in the form of tea, coffee and bottled water in addition to cash and credit card donations, the email says.

cburney@durangoherald.com

The warming center is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Fridays, starting Tuesday.

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