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Homeless meeting leads to baby steps, focus on business proposal

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Elise Thatcher
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Glenwood Springs charity leaders took small steps towards addressing concerns about homelessness. Aspen Public Radio’s Elise Thatcher has this look at how businesses are reacting to a gathering held earlier this week.

John Lee is co-owner of Providence Apothecary on Cooper Avenue. The shop offers herbs and alternative medicine, and a yoga studio. He came away satisfied after Monday’s meeting. “I was very impressed,” reflected Lee afterwards. “I gained a lot of perspective from, I guess, the opposite side of the issue. And that’s the people that deal with the homeless population on a day to day basis.”

Leaders from several charity organizations were on the panel Monday night. Lee says many customers have told him about uncomfortable interactions with panhandlers downtown, and his own family had a hostile encounter. So Monday’s panel really drove something home for Lee. “There is a very important differentiation that needs to be made between the vast majority of the homeless population,” he says, “and this small but growing percentage of a highly visible and rather problematic vagrant population.”

 

Kevin Brady co-owns Cooper Wine and Spirits with his wife, just down the street from John Lee. “We’re looking at starting these ‘well registers,’ or giving well piggy banks in different businesses,” he said Tuesday. “And having that money collected at different businesses and going directly to charities.”

 

Brady, who chooses to not sell small bottles of alcohol, is part of an informal group of businesses that have been meeting on the homeless issue. Though in the very early stages, the so-called “giving well” idea was the most concrete proposal described Monday night, and garnered applause.

 

“I expected that there would be a little bit more solutions on the table,” said Solomon Liston, who introduced the business idea from the audience on Monday evening. “I was a little shocked that there wasn’t more offers out there.” Liston runs a marketing company in downtown Glenwood.

 

A professional moderator said afterwards the panel was the most “reluctant” he had worked with, and there was tension at times between its  members. Still, business owner Solomon Liston was pleased with the discussion. Like John Lee, he appreciated hearing different perspectives on homelessness.

 

City Council member Kathryn Trauger coordinated the gathering, and says the next steps may be supporting the giving well business proposal, as well as exploring a permanent homeless shelter and service center, and continuing to have expanded police patrols downtown.

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