Aurora Warms the Night making efforts to prepare for winter

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AURORA | With winter just around the corner, the staff at Aurora Warms the Night is gearing up for what they expect to be another record year.

The nonprofit that provides motel vouchers to the homeless on the coldest nights provided 1,000 more nights of shelter last year than it did the previous winter, jumping from 2,269 to 3,246.

Sarah Hamilton, the group’s executive director, said she expects this winter to be even busier than the last. Already, Hamilton is stocking the pantry at the organization’s headquarters at 1555 Dallas St. to prepare for the rough weather ahead and the needy people who follow.

Aurora Warms the Night also has some new services this year, including a partnership with Comitis Crisis Center that will provide a van to drive people from the group’s headquarters to their motel.

Hamilton said that the 10 motels the group works with are all within a three-mile radius of the headquarters, but the van will mean nobody has to walk in the cold.

“Three miles in the middle of a blizzard when you have little kids is far,” she said.

While the group’s primary mission is still helping the homeless stay out of the cold, Hamilton said they’ve also expanded their services to include a health clinic, job coaching and resume assistance, HIV/AIDS testing and counseling, food stamp assistance and counseling services. Those services are all part of partnerships with various agencies around town, including Metro Community Provider Network, Tri-County Health, Aurora Mental Health, Hunger Free Colorado and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“We’ve really become the central hub on the Colfax corridor for homeless services,” she said.

Hamilton said with winter fast approaching, the group is still in need of donations, particularly winter gloves and cans of soup with a pull-tab lid.

Mary Lewis, president of AWTN’s board of directors, said that the group wouldn’t be the hub of activity it is today if it weren’t for partnerships with Aurora Mental Health and other agencies.

“It makes it possible to offer the cold-weather services that we want to offer,” she said. “Partnerships make all that possible. We couldn’t do it on our own.”