Where do people go to nowhere?
On Friday, September 30, 2022, people residing at the only encampment sanctioned by La Plata County, Colorado, willingly complied with county sheriffs to vacate their tent homes and moved to nowhere.
Some people reluctantly left their belongings that will be tagged and placed in the county’s storage for 30 days for people to reclaim their possessions. Others chose to store their things in storage spaces wherever there was availability. While others remained to test the resolve of the county to move them … but to where?
In the five years that I’ve been advocating for people in our community who are living homeless, the politics between the city and the county continues to play out. The City/County Coordinated Council on Homelessness and other agencies have tried to work with officials to designate safe space for people to camp, given the serious shortage of available, affordable low-income housing.
When we as a small community famous for its tourism that Durango attracts cannot provide space for more than 150 tents that was set up at Purple Cliffs, it says that low-income and unhoused adults, youth, children and families are not this society’s concern. We’re in October with thunderstorms and temperatures lowering in the evenings. People have frozen to death in past winters and some have had frost bites, injuries from slipping on ice or falling down steep mountainsides.
When people have nowhere to go, when they have no access to a toilet, sink and shower, we cannot expect a human being to be clean, well groomed and normal—like those of us who are safe in our own rooms. In fact, we cannot blame or fault anyone living in the woods and along cliffs of the Rockies to be sober. Self-medication is all that is available from the hoardes of illegal drugs, marijuana and opioids pushed by dealers who feed off desperate folks. Alcohol is easy to get here with many distilleries, bars, liquor stores that serve the broad community of vacationers. There are plenty marijuana dispensaries for people who say they use weed for medicinal purposes, and it’s been known throughout Colorado that street drugs including marijuana are laced with Fentanyl.
When people have nowhere to go, they survive as they’ve learned to do over the years of experiencing homelessness. But, what makes Durango the place where people want to live. The scenic beauty is definitely the reason most people like living here, but cost of living and the rent rates are not enough obstacles for some individuals to choose our community as their home. Despite the rejection of some local residents and their animosity toward the homeless population, a person has the Constitutional right to live anywhere in the United States where they choose.
Community Compassion Outreach can only fill gaps in services as it is possible and while we rely on donations and grants. The root of many who find themselves unable to earn a living and needing to live out of doors may be their ability to survive despite fear, depression, anxiety, disassociation from community. That survival is described to be mental health where people may or may not be diagnosed for mental illness, yet their behaviors are evidence of a mental health disorder. This is why Recovery Empowerment Support Services Team is created. RESST program is one way we can address many of the challenges that people experiencing homelessness face every day they are without safe shelter or a stable home.
Peers of lived experiences with mental health are trained to know about alcohol addictions, ethical practices, confidentiality, motivational interviewing, trauma-informed care and substance abuse. Either trained peers have recovered from addictions or they have co-occurring mental health disorders. When the human body is suffering from environmental exposure, or from an assault, or lack of sleep, or injuries sustained from a fall, the ability to cope often times is not easy without resources of community and without a person to trust. This is what I’ve come to learn since early 2017. Training by evidence-based people whose life experiences have made a difference in the lives of others is what CCO believes it can use to help improve another human’s way of life. There are multiple ways toward recovery from substances. There must be compassionate others to help guide, coach, motivate, encourage and empower folks who don’t have stable housing and who are feeling hopeless.
CCO RESST program is to offer hope where there is no hope. To provide empathetic service that exceeds the capacity of counselors and therapists. We can help people get identifications, refer them to housing resources, collaborate with other service providers to fulfill the needs that our recipients want.
We cannot do this alone. We cannot meet everyone’s need. We can, for certain, be the person who will listen and be concerned when called. We can provide our own life’s experiences that offers hope and empowerment. Much we can do, but we want to do it in partnerships with our immediate community, with our local lawmakers, healthcare and food providers. We at CCO will reach out to let you know that we are in recovery with skills that may be just what you need to make recovery possible for you.
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Our Mission is to assist persons to survive and to exit homelessness with a viable housing solution!.
Our mission is to assist individuals & families to prevent, to survive and to exit homelessness with warm clothing, camp provisions, food, referrals to vital resources and connection to housing. We designed a small 560-sq.ft. Essential House for permanent and supportive housing in a Village of Hope development.
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We are located at 255 E. 11th St., Durango, CO 81301. At this time, our office hours are limited due to short staffing and the COVID pandemic. Volunteer professionals are available by appointment only.