Denver Rescue Mission’s Lawrence Street shelter getting back to normal after bomb cyclone, power outage

Men board a bus headed from Lawrence Street to a Denver Rescue Mission shelter in north Denver on March 13. (Hart Van Denburg/CPR News)

Men board a bus headed from Lawrence Street to a Denver Rescue Mission shelter in north Denver on March 13. (Hart Van Denburg/CPR News)

Donna Bryson. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

A pizza restaurant and the city chipped in for dinner after one of central Denver’s largest shelters for people experiencing homelessness lost power as it harbored hundreds during the bomb cyclone.

Denver Rescue Mission spokeswoman Nicole Tschetter said power went out at the nonprofit’s Lawrence Street shelter about 1 p.m. and was restored shortly after dinner, which featured Domino’s Pizza courtesy of the restaurant and the city. About 300 people — about 100 more than on a typical night — spent the night at Lawrence Street while others were bused to two other shelters the mission operates in north Denver.

In all, 791 people spent the night at the three shelters, which have a total capacity of more than 900. On Jan. 20 a total of 902 people had sheltered at the three sites, Tschetter said.

Denver Human Services spokeswoman Julie Smith said the total for all the city’s dozen shelters was more than 1,700 people, slightly above a typical night’s count of about 1,600.

Tschetter said things were returning to normal Thursday morning. A group of visiting nurses showed up to volunteer serving breakfast.

“It’s incredible to see all the different people step up in situations like this with big hearts,” she said.

Loa Esquilín García, spokeswoman for the Office of Emergency Management, said among the city’s dozen shelters, only the Denver Rescue Mission’s Lawrence Street site, one of the largest, had reported a power outage Wednesday. Generators were used before power was restored at Lawrence Street.

A bus headed from Lawrence Street to a Denver Rescue Mission shelter in north Denver on March 13. (Hart Van Denburg/CPR News)

Men board a bus headed from Lawrence Street to a Denver Rescue Mission shelter in north Denver on March 13. (Hart Van Denburg/CPR News)

Men board a bus headed from Lawrence Street to a Denver Rescue Mission shelter in north Denver on March 13. (Hart Van Denburg/CPR News)

Men board a bus headed from Lawrence Street to a Denver Rescue Mission shelter in north Denver on March 13. (Hart Van Denburg/CPR News)

Wednesday’s power outage complicated a busy day.  Salvation Army outreach teams that usually operate only at night were out in the morning’s blowing snow asking people experiencing homelessness whether they wanted to get inside.  Lawrence Street, which like many shelters is usually open only overnight, opened at 1 p.m. and used its community center and chapel to accommodate the crowds. It would be open all day Thursday, Tschetter said.

“People can come in during the day time and just hang out and keep warm,”Tschetter said.

The nearby Volunteers of America day shelter, The Mission, closed after breakfast Wednesday because staff members were finding it difficult to get to work, said the nonprofit’s spokeswoman Patina Grayson.  With The Mission’s kitchen closed, VOA also couldn’t deliver meals on wheels or supply the centers across metro Denver where the needy gather for lunch, Grayson said. She said meals on wheels recipients were advised to eat the emergency supplies they had been given to keep in their freezers.

Grayson added power outages hit several of the affordable housing complexes that VOA manages in metro Denver, but that residents “fared well.”

“We anticipate being fully functional tomorrow,” Grayson said Thursday.

Thursday the city opened 21 of what it called “warming centers” at libraries, rec centers and community rooms in the police station headquarters for districts 1, 2 and 3. Smith, the DHS spokeswoman, noted that many Denver residents remained without power Thursday morning.

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