Those who are interested in connecting with the Severe Weather Shelter Network can do so by visiting swshelternetwork.com.
Starting this month, Jefferson County's Severe Weather Shelter Network opened its doors with plans to continue hosting the homeless throughout the winter.
Formed in 2013, the network is a nonprofit made up of community groups and agencies through which local churches provide overnight shelter from winter conditions.
As the county shifts into its coldest months, the nonprofit encourages those in need to register with the network.
Step 1: Seasonal registration
Each winter season, individuals are asked to complete a one-time registration with the Severe Weather Shelter Network. The registration process promotes safety for guests and volunteers, said network executive director Lynn Ann Huizingh.
Registration occurs in-person at the following sites:
Giving Heart, 4358 S. Broadway;
Mean Street Ministry, 1380 Ammons St.;
The Action Center, 8755 W. 14th Ave.;
Jeffco Human Services, 900 Jefferson County Pky.;
The Rising Church, 7500 W.57th Ave.;
Community Table, 8555 W. 57th Ave.
Location hours are posted at swshelternetwork.com/homeless.
Those who register will receive the network's hotline number, which they can call on winter weather nights for more information about specific locations.
Step 2: Nightly roster
The network encourages guests to add their name to rosters for specific shelters every night that they would like to stay.
Three warming sites — one in Arvada, one in Lakewood and one in the Englewood and Littleton area — will open at 6 p.m. on winter weather nights.
After first-time registration, guests can call the hotline number during the day to put their name on the roster for that night and learn more about warming site locations.
Overnight locations open when the temperature is projected to drop below 32 degrees with wet conditions, or 20 degrees with dry conditions, based on morning forecasts.
“We have a capacity of about 35 at each of our host sites, and we hardly ever go over that,” Huizingh said. “We try not to turn anyone away.”
While the network does not host families with children, the organization can also connect families with other resources, she said.
The network is seeking volunteers to assist with tasks such as preparing meals, serving as drivers and supervising the shelters overnight.
The best candidates to volunteer, particularly for overnight shifts, are those who have flexible schedules, such as individuals who are retired or work from home, Huizingh said
Additionally, the nonprofit would like to partner with businesses that could provide vans for temporary use on shelter nights. The vans will be used to transport guests from the warming site to the shelter site.
Huizingh encouraged potential volunteers to explore the possibility and do away with preconceived notions.
“The suburban homeless community is different than the downtown culture. It's also only 35 people, and there's room for everyone to spread out a bit,” she said. “This is about welcoming people into this space. If people have any interest in volunteering at all, we would love to talk to them.”
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