JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. -- When cold weather moves in, a network of churches will open their doors to provide shelter for people experiencing homelessness. But with COVID-19 concerns, organizers are worried about safety.
Some of the churches that are part of the Severe Weather Shelter Network aren't even open for worship yet, so it seemed impossible for workers to be able to provide food and shelter for dozens of people.
"I cannot turn my back and walk away and say, 'Oh well, we can’t do it this year.' We had to find another way," said LynnAnn Huizingh, the executive director for the program.
Instead of churches, the program will utilize hotel rooms to provide emergency shelter, but it comes at a price. The annual budget for the Severe Weather Shelter Network is usually around $150,000 and hotel rooms will likely cost four times that amount.
"It’s a huge shift when your budget is $150,000, and now we’re looking at just $600,000 for us to be able to provide the motel space," said Huizingh.
Huizingh said they need to bring in additional donations in order to raise enough money to keep the program going. She's also in the process of finding hotels that are willing to participate.
"Hopefully in the next couple weeks we’ll have those all locked down. But gosh, if there’s motel owners in Jefferson County or west Arapahoe County that are interested in partnering, we would love to talk with you," said Huizingh.
The Severe Weather Shelter Network typically provides shelter to 105 people per night.
"I know these people who are living on the street. They’re my friends, I know their stories, they bring friends with them when they come to shelter here," said Huizingh. "So this is the only way that we know to be able to move forward for this year."