LITTLETON, Colo. — Dangerously low temperatures can be especially terrifying for those without a home. Nights that follow a dumping of snow, dropping temperatures well below freezing, shine a spotlight on the importance of homeless shelters.
Back in October, the Severe Weather Shelter Network contacted Denver7 because they desperately needed volunteers and were in danger of closing. After our story aired, dozens of people in the community stepped up to help out, but the network still needs help.
Up to 35 people per night can stay at multiple churches throughout the network, which opens its doors to suburban homeless when the temperatures dip below freezing.
Mark Bilas is one of the guests.
“I love this place. I’ve been coming here three years. As you see, everybody knows who I am and they love me coming here," said Bilas.
If it weren’t for the Severe Weather Shelter Network, Bilas, like many others, would have nowhere else to go.
The network is run solely by volunteers like Eileen Breslin, who has been donating her time for the last five winters. She said after only one night of lending a hand, she was hooked.
“Seeing how grateful our guests are to have a place to come call when it’s cold and they’re hungry and they just want somebody to listen to them, my heart swells every time," Breslin said.
On cold nights, the network gives suburban homeless a warm meal, somewhere to sleep and a place to belong.
“It’s not uncommon in suburban homelessness that people don’t want to go downtown. They just felt like they didn’t have anywhere else to go, so for them to be here, to be warm, to be fed and have a good place to sleep, they were really grateful,” says executive director, Lynn Ann Huizingh.
About a dozen people volunteer each night but it’s not enough. The network needs more volunteers, especially overnight volunteers — a shift Breslin knows very well.
“I’ll be honest with you, it is hard knowing they are going back out on the street when it’s still so cold. I wish we had the capability of serving them longer," Breslin said.
Huizingh believes the upcoming cold month of February means they will l have to remain open for at least the next 10-12 days and possibly, the rest of the month. For that reason, not only are volunteers important but so are donated items.
Click here if you’d like to volunteer or to donate.