Ensuring people without homes stay warm during freak storm

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AURORA | As Front Range residents gawk and prepare for a historic 60-degree temperature swing and snowstorm Monday, staff at Aurora’s daytime respite center are ramping up shelter operations and handing out cold weather garb for people without homes.  

It’s a typical response to snowstorms and cold snaps in the fall, winter and spring at the Aurora Day Resource Center, but a bizarre one just after Labor Day. 

On Tuesday, the Day Center will become a 24-hour shelter offering homeless people hot meals and a warm place to rest. The center is located at the intersection of North Wheeling Street and East 19th Place on the Anschutz Medical Campus. 

“This is a crazy time where it is going from like 90 degrees to 30 degrees. So we’re doing everything we can,” said Mark Marsico, senior director of operations and programs for Mile High Behavioral Healthcare, which runs the Day Resource Center. 

The National Weather Service estimated a peak temperature of 91 degrees in Aurora Monday and smoky conditions due to the Cameron Peak Fire north of Rocky Mountain National Park. Throughout Monday, the temperature is expected to plummet to near 30 degrees, ushering in a winter storm dumping four to eight inches of new snow across the region by Tuesday. 

The temperature swings pose health risks for the homeless and people with mobility constraints, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Homeless Aurorans have risked heat stroke and dehydration during a sustained, searing summer involving poor air quality and one of the hottest August months in recorded history — a trend driven by changing climate, scientists say. But Monday night and Tuesday, the risk of frostbite and hypothermia will supplant the heat. 

To help unhoused people cope with the wild weather, Mile High’s street outreach team is visiting homeless encampments to dole out hand-warmers, socks and sweaters and refer people to the Day Resource Center. They’re also asking for donations of warm clothing and food. 

Inside the Resource Center, hand-washing, masks and social distancing will be required Tuesday night. A recent text alert also promised movie screenings. 

Shelter staff won’t turn anyone away, according to its website. 

In Jan. 2020, a point-in-time survey found about 425 people were “literally homeless” in Aurora. Locally, advocates for people without homes say the numbers are far greater.