A city rec center and the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless’s lobby open as warming centers on a snowy, blustery Tuesday

The Denver Rescue Mission harbored 816 people Monday night.
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A snowy day over Colfax Avenue, Nov. 26, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

A city recreation center in Cole and the lobby of the Colorado Coalition for Homeless building in Five Points were open Tuesday so that people experiencing homelessness can get out of the wind and snow.

St. Charles Recreation Center at 3777 N. Lafayette St. was opened at 9 a.m. as an emergency warming center and was to close at 7 p.m., Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Cynthia Karvaski said.

Karvaski said St. Charles had served as an emergency overnight shelter during the March snowstorm dubbed the bomb cyclone. During that storm, a dozen rec centers also were opened as warming centers during the day. Karvaski said she did not expect more rec centers to be transformed into warming centers beyond St. Charles this time.

While the weather meant most Colorado Coalition for Homeless programs opened late, at 10 a.m., its lobby at 2100 Broadway was being used as a warming center

The city contracts with nonprofits to conduct street outreach to people experiencing homelessness. The outreach teams were being used to spread the word about warming centers, Karvaski said. The teams also distribute cold weather gear.

The city added in a statement that at least one nonprofit's day drop-in center was closed today, while other nonprofits were expanding service.

Closed was The Gathering Place in City Park West, which planned to reopen Wednesday.

The Delores Project in West Colfax, which serves women and transgender individuals and is generally open only overnight, was to remain open during the day on Tuesday for current shelter guests. Urban Peak, which serves teens and young adults, expanded the usual 9 a.m. to noon hours at its Five Points drop-in center to 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The Salvation Army planned to keep its Crossroads shelter for men in Five Points, generally closed during the day, open until noon Tuesday.

Nicole Tschetter, a spokeswoman for the Denver Rescue Mission, said a total of 816 people -- typical on a cold night and about 100 more than during warmer months -- spent Monday night at the three shelters her organization operates. Transfers to its Lawrence Street Community Center Tuesday morning went smoothly, but "it obviously took a little longer than it would have when there's no snow on the road," Tschetter said.

Tschetter said about 700 people were at the center at 2222 Lawrence St. in Five Points at mid-morning on Tuesday. The number was high, but not unexpected, she said.

"We won't turn services away for anyone," Tschetter said. "Our top priority is to just get people inside."

According to city officials, Denver has nearly 2,000 shelter spaces -- about half operated by Denver Rescue Mission -- available each night and can make more beds available at its recreation centers in an emergency.

The city and its nonprofit partners are working on plans to make shelters more responsive to the needs of people experiencing homelessness, including offering more support during the day.

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