News Briefs

Pueblo Shelter Passes Out Camping Gear

By Danielle Krolewicz 

A nonprofit in Pueblo began collecting camping gear last September for people experiencing homelessness.

Items collected by Posada—which offers emergency and transitional housing for families and youth, among other supportive services—included gear specific for cold weather as well as for camping. In addition to the sleeping bags, tents, tarps, and ready-to-eat-food items Posada passed out, the organization also collected winter clothing, undergarments, and blankets. In all, 50 tents and 150 backpacks were among the items distributed to those in need.

2016 was not the first year Posada held a camping gear drive, although, “We probably made a bigger deal of it this year,” said Anne Stattelman, executive director of Posada. According to Stattelman, homeless service providers in the area have been overwhelmed beyond their capacities.

Stattelman attributed the success of the drive to the generosity of Pueblo’s residents. “We were not asking for anything new,” she said. “Pueblo is a very giving community. They want to make sure that people are taken care of.” However, Pueblo is ultimately a small community that lacks the resources of a big city.

Although Pueblo has an urban camping ban, the number of camps in the area have been growing steadily since January 2014, according to Stattelman, who attributed this to the fact that Pueblo only has beds for about 1 percent of its homeless population. “There are no shelter spaces available,” she said. 

In 2015, Posada reported at least 1,461 of 4,946 homeless clients served were living in an unsheltered situation. According to Stattelman, Posada served over 7,500 unduplicated people in 2016, and though an exact number of unsheltered is unknown until the January Point-in-Time Survey later this month, Stattelman estimates over 2,000 people in Pueblo are sleeping in places not fit for human habitation. Last summer, 120 camps were counted and Posada recorded over 600 unduplicated encounters with people living in the camps.

“Police are being really decent about allowing people to camp,” said Stattelman. “We work closely with the police and try to work with folks so they won’t be bothered. If they keep camps clean and out of sight, no one will bother them.”

Stattelman says the increase in need of items is part of a larger issue: the city and county of Pueblo is seeing an increase in the overall number of homeless. 

“People are not coming for jobs. They are coming for expanded Medicaid benefits and affordable housing—of which we no longer have any.” Another contributing factor Stattelman noted was legal marijuana.

“Our community is unprepared, so much so that rural communities for the first time are experiencing homelessness.” 

Because of limited resources, items and services provided by Posada—especially transitional housing—are designated first for Pueblo residents. Posada’s website reads, “Pueblo First! Compassion For All.” The website also states that priority is given to local Pueblo families for all services and discourages people from relocating to Pueblo. ■

 

 

Seattle Pot Money Builds Tiny Homes

By Danielle Krolewicz

Two Seattle dispensaries, Solstice and Uncle Ike’s, are teaming up to raise money for several new tiny home villages. The businesses are selling packs of pre-rolled joints, a portion of which ($3 from every $23 pack) will go to the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI). 

LIHI is a Seattle-based nonprofit that develops and currently operates over 1,800 units of housing for people experiencing poverty and homelessness. In October, LIHI proposed four new locations for tiny home communities to house the homeless. Last month, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced the locations for three of the four approved encampments, set to open in spring 2017.

Sharon Lee, LIHI director, told Seattle Weekly that the dispensaries are anticipated to sell enough Tiny House packs to build three tiny homes, which cost about $2500 apiece. The owners and employees of Solstice and Uncle Ike’s plan to donate and build two additional houses, bringing their contribution up to five homes. In total, 100 homes are needed for the two villages. It is expected that 200 individuals will benefit from the creation of the encampments— two of which will host tiny houses, with the third encampment reserved for tent camping. A location for the fourth encampment is still to be determined.

Currently there are three authorized tiny home encampments in the Rainier Valley, Ballard, and Interlay neighborhoods of Seattle. 

Ian Eisenberg, owner of Uncle Ike’s, approached Solstice founder Alex Cooley with the idea of selling pre-rolled packets of pot as a fundraiser. “We wanted to figure out something where it wasn’t just us giving money to charity, but our customers were participating in it,” said Eisenberg. “A lot [of people] want to give to charity in smaller amounts but don’t know how—besides maybe giving money to a panhandler, which is not always helpful,” said Eisenberg.

For both Eisenberg and Cooley, LIHI seemed like the perfect benefactor. 

“Seattle has a real homeless problem,” said Eisenberg. “In [Uncle Ike’s] neighborhood, there are two unsanctioned camps without rules in which there are a lot of issues. LIHI does such a great job running their homeless camps and we wanted to support them.”

Cannabis companies are subject to the 280E tax, which does not exclude charitable contributions made by those companies, making the fundraiser more complicated but not impossible.

“We at Solstice believe housing is a fundamental right and crucial for success,” said Cooley. “We are incredibly excited about the opportunity to show people what the industry can be.”

In addition to providing transitional housing, LIHI provides case management and outreach workers to connect with people living in illegal camps. “We find so much value in their programs,” said Cooley, “and are not a huge fan of how our city is handling the issue [of homelessness].” ■