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As temperatures dip, Aurora community comes together to help homeless

Posted at 1:00 PM, Mar 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-04 11:18:27-05

AURORA, Colo. -- More than 60 volunteers came together Saturday afternoon to put together care kits for people experiencing homelessness in Aurora.

The first ever Rock It, Sock it community supply drive happened at the Summit Conference and Event Center. Volunteers assembled more than 2,000 care kits after receiving more than 20,000 donations from toothbrushes to socks to personal hygiene products.

“We have been full almost every single day and with the cold weather, we go into overflow in the Comitis Crisis Center,” said James Gillespie, the community impact and government relations liaison for Mile High Behavioral Health Care.

The center provides 139 beds for people experiencing homelessness in Aurora. In addition, the Aurora Day Resources Center has been helping serve about 160 people on cold nights throughout the winter.

“We make sure they get a nice warm shower and a clean pair of clothes and a nice hot meal and settle them down for the night so that they’re comfortable and they feel relaxed,” Gillespie said.

The Aurora Police Department, which sent about a dozen volunteers to help put the care kits together, also donated about 2,000 items to the event.

“If we can provide even a small toothbrush or toothpaste to some of these people, it can make a huge difference and change their day,” said Officer Matthew Longshore. “We hope that doing stuff like this helps bridge the gap with these members and work toward our goal of community commitment.”

With frigid temperatures in the forecast this weekend, Aurora PD has activated its cold weather plan. Officers and city workers will be offering free rides to shelters for people who need a place to stay.

“We’ll give you a ride to the resource center, we’ll find a place for you to stay, we’ll get you out of the cold. We don’t want anything bad to happen,” Longshore said.

Former Congressman Mike Coffman and Current U.S. Rep. Jason Crow also took part in the event.

“When people are out on the streets and they’re subjected to that weather, we need to make sure that we’re doubling our efforts to get out there and support them, give them resources and make sure they’re safe and secure,” Crow said.

He believes the care kits are part of the wraparound services that communities need to offer to those experiencing homelessness. Along with the care kits, he stressed the need to address people’s medical and mental health needs and to look for semi-permanent housing options.

“There’s the short-term, immediate need which, of course, is very pressing when the weather is bad like it is right now. We have to make sure that we are providing for the immediate safety and security for these families and these children. But long-term, we have to make sure were making investments too in affordable housing and the types of things that can help people who are down and out get back on their feet and re-join the community,” Crow said.

Organizers said there was such a big turnout, they’re already planning on holding a similar even next year.