Category: press

As temps drop, overnight homeless shelter opens

Cross Currents: Aspen Homeless Shelter

  NOV 1, 2017

One of the first questions that people ask Dr. Vince Savage, executive director of the Aspen Homeless Shelter is: There actually are homeless people in Aspen?

Well, yes, and those who are homeless here can find food, resources and accommodations at the Aspen Homeless Shelter.

Dr. Vince Savage sat down with Cross Currents host Christin Kay to talk about homelessness in Aspen. Also in the studio were Bill Hodges, president of the shelter’s board, Simon Chen, board member, and Catherine Ann Provine, managing director of the Aspen Chapel. The homeless shelter’s overnight program will be at the Aspen Chapel this winter.

Alycin Bektesh has reported on homelessness in Aspen. She joined the conversation, as well.

Only in Aspen…

Colorado police find homeless men preparing lobster, lamb

Posted: Saturday, September 16, 2017 11:54 am | Updated: 12:16 pm, Sat Sep 16, 2017.

ASPEN, Colo. (AP) — A Colorado police officer started a recent shift with a routine call: Checking on reports of smoke in a wooded area.

But when Aspen Police Sgt. Rob Fabrocini arrived at the spot that’s a popular campsite for homeless people, he found two men with lobster tails, rack of lamb and salmon steaks loaded onto a small grill.

Fabrocini told The Aspen Times that the men also had a 12-pack of Stella Artois beer to accompany their meal.

Fabrocini, who joked that he dined on cold pizza that Tuesday, said the men told him they just received a paycheck and were celebrating.

The men weren’t cited. Fabrocini suggested another spot they could finish cooking without risk of fire catching in dry woods.

© 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Aspen Homeless Shelter needs $70,000 for Winter programs

New location for Aspen Homeless Shelter this Winter

With renovation construction closing St. Mary Catholic Church, Aspen’s winter homeless shelter will be hosted by another church east of town, the program’s director said Friday.

The Aspen Chapel near the roundabout has agreed to provide space for the homeless shelter from Dec. 1 to March 31 this coming winter season, said Dr. Vince Savage, director of Aspen’s homeless shelter program.

“It looks like their congregation is very much interested in helping us out,” he said, though officials at St. Mary have made it clear they want the shelter back when renovations are complete.

Attempts to reach officials at the Aspen Chapel and St. Mary on Friday were not successful.

And while the problem of a place to host the shelter has been solved, the problem of how to pay for it has not, Savage said.

“The real anxiety is whether we’re going to have it all,” he said. “We can’t make it this winter without some significant donations.”

Aspen’s homeless shelter program encompasses the winter overnight shelter, the Day Center program at the Pitkin County Health and Human Services Building and their hot meal program at the day center, Savage said. Altogether, it costs about $70,000 a year to run, he said.

“I’m a little more anxious about that than anything else,” Savage said.

A fundraiser is being held today at Ajax Tavern for the shelter and other programs featuring a barbecue competition among chefs from Aspen’s top restaurants. Tickets are still available on the Little Nell’s website, he said.

The number of people who utilize the shelter ranges from the teens to the high 20s and can even reach 30 people during busy parts of the winter, Savage said. The shelter accepts men and woman over the age of 18, though the rules “are pretty rigid,” he said.

People must register, which they can do when they arrive, and they must check in between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m., he said. The shelter won’t accept people after 10 p.m.

“The purpose here is sleep,” Savage said. “It’s a place that’s warm and level.”

No food or showers are available, and those who show up can’t be drunk or belligerent, he said. Bathrooms are available.


News In Brief
Aspen Daily News Staff Report
Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Coat and sleeping bag drive
The Aspen Homeless Shelter, in collaboration with J. Crew, is collecting winter coats and sleeping bags for people in need.

Drop off gently used coats or sleeping bags at the J. Crew at the Mountain store, 205 S. Mill St., near the corner of Hopkins, and receive a coupon good for 25 percent off a purchase.

The response to the local coat and bag drive has been so strong that J. Crew increased its coupon from 20-25 percent, which is good until Nov. 19.

“As the Aspen nights get longer and colder, homeless men and women need our help the most,” according to a statement by Vince Savage, executive director of the Aspen Homeless Shelter.

“With the need on the rise this year we hope you reach deep this holiday season and share your precious resources with those who are less fortunate,” it continued.

The shelter is also now accepting cash donations for the upcoming winter season. Checks may be mailed to: Aspen Homeless Shelter, 405 Castle Creek Road, Suite 12, Aspen, 81611.

For more information, call 925-1342.

Cross Currents-The Little Nell and Aspen Homeless Shelter


The Little Nell is hosting a benefit dinner for the Aspen Homeless Shelter on Saturday, May 14 with food from Biju’s Little Curry Shop of Denver.

Guests are May Selby from The Little Nell Hotel, Vince Savage of the Aspen Homeless Shelter and Rabbi David Segal.

To learn more about the Aspen Homeless Shelter, click here. To learn more about The Little Nell, click here.

Vince Savage, Aspen Homeless Center’s director and resident philosopher

Vince Savage’s office isn’t exactly a portrait of neat and orderly. Post-it notes are peppered about, a DVD of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” is in plain view on a bookshelf, a framed photograph of the Dalai Lama hangs beneath a shelf of files, binders and boxes. Relics, books, coffee mugs, papers, notebooks and other items fill in the rest of the area. Bare spaces are a scarce commodity.

Some people couldn’t, or wouldn’t, work in such cluttered conditions. Having a tidy office wouldn’t suit Savage, either, even though the humanistic psychologist subscribes to structure.

“I always find it ironic that a guy like me — a self-styled and counterculture person — can help people walk the straight and narrow,” he said. “Through structure is freedom. If you can live by the rules, you can have a lot more freedom.”

Savage’s office is akin to a mini museum of psychology theories and practices, spiritual and religious texts, self-actualization and a touch of pop culture — from a pseudo driver’s license of Walter White, the meth-making chemistry teacher in “Breaking Bad,” to a poster of Doc Savage, the pulp magazine character from the 1930s and ’40s. That’s also Savage’s nickname among professionals and users of the Aspen Homeless Shelter. With a Ph.D from the University of Northern Colorado in counseling psychology, he likes to play it up.

vms.aspentimes“I’m pretty egomaniacal,” joked Savage, now in his 60s. “I need to see my picture.”

Savage’s road to the homeless shelter has been filled with social work, activism and academia. The son of an investigative reporter who was a professor of journalism at the University of Indiana in Bloomington, Savage grew up in a college town that shaped his early views on life.

As a teenager during his counter-culture hippie days, he worked for Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. When he attended the University of Indiana, one of Savage’s roommates and fraternity brothers was Mark Spitz, the nine-time gold-medalist Olympic swimmer. Savage’s travels took him to the Middle East in 1967, where he provided aid after the Arab–Israeli war, also known as the Six-Day War. He saw the horror of war and decided, “This isn’t politics. This is psychology.”

Savage has worked with drug addicts in the Canadian Arctic, as well as those in Aspen in the 1980s at a rehabilitation center for alcoholics and habitual users of cocaine. He also taught at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

In 2004, Savage became director of Valley Information and Assistance, which was funded by the now-defunct Aspen Valley Medical Foundation. The purpose of Valley Information and Assistance was to help people who had addiction and health problems. Valley Information eventually spun off into the Aspen Homeless Shelter, a nonprofit with Savage at the helm. After the medical foundation dismantled, the homeless shelter was left on its own to find funding.

Savage had to focus on raising funds to keep the shelter solvent, which it remains today. Its budget last year was $295,000; this year it’s $308,000.

Its services include day center at the Health and Human Services Center by the hospital. There, homeless guests can stay warm and enjoy hot meals, some of which are provided by The Little Nell. During most of the winter, they can stay overnight at St. Mary Church. And, most recently, the Aspen Community Church opened its doors to the homeless, who can stay there overnight until the end of the month.

Savage said he regularly hears from people who are surprised Aspen has a homeless population. The homeless shelter aids some 20 people, but not all of Aspen’s homeless population uses it.

The shelter’s clients have been authorities, stockbrokers and bankers. Others are just normal people who made poor life choices. Some are plagued by mental-health issues and substance-abuse problems, Savage said.

But a common thread among them, Savage explained, is that most have strong ties to Aspen.

“One thing people don’t understand is that a majority of them are locals,” he said. “Our people are born in Aspen, graduated Aspen High School or have been around here for decades.”

Savage can be strict — people under the influence of drugs or alcohol aren’t allowed in the Day Center and can’t use the church’s overnight services.

“There’s always this tension between the bleeding-heart liberals, the well-meaning people and the people like me who see the value of structure and limits,” he said. “I’m as big a bleeding-heart liberal as anybody, but I’ve also see the damage people can have with total freedom. Sometimes they have to pull up their own bootstraps.”

There was the time Savage bought a van for Jane Patterson and Michael O’Gara, two Aspen transients who ran into a plethora of legal issues and problems in the 2000s. Savage caught grief for it; the pair’s drinking issues had been well chronicled in the local newspapers, and here Savage was, buying them a vehicle to drink and drive in. But Savage felt they needed a push-start. The two now live in Denver. O’Gara has sobered up and is living on his own, while Patterson resides at the Beacon Place, a transitional living quarters for homeless residents.

Savage said Aspen needs emergency transition housing for those who are abused, homeless or have addiction problems, among other people. He envisions it as a multifaceted service.

“You can’t put the Response victims (of domestic abuse) with the homeless or the drunks,” he said. “But we’ve got to have a multifaceted thing. It could be done.”

Savage, who also runs Beaver Lake Retreat in Marble, said the Aspen Homeless Shelter’s core mission is to provide safety and security.

“We don’t want anybody in Pitkin County to succumb to the elements,” he said. “And working with this group is tremendously enriching because of the personalities of these folks. They’ve got survival instincts, and they’ve got their own sense of status and belonging.”

Aspen Country Day School engaging with community

Editor,“What are you doing for others?” This question, which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called “life’s most persistent and urgent question,” inspired the 238 students at Aspen Country Day School during a day of community engagement on Monday, Jan. 18. Children and teachers spread out all over town with projects that ranged from cooking for a dinner for the homeless to visiting with seniors at Whitcomb Terrace.

Activities spanned all grades; kindergarteners baked dog biscuits for pets awaiting adoption, and eighth graders met with Dr. Vince Savage at the Aspen Homeless Shelter. Seventh graders spent time preparing for their June service project in the Sacred Valley of Peru with the World Leadership School. This initiative is part of the new “Learn Outside the Bubble” program at Country Day, which seeks to foster a deeper understanding of the responsibilities of global citizenship beyond our small community here in the Roaring Fork Valley. It was an important day of learning for all children and adults on our Castle Creek campus and beyond.

Country Day sincerely thanks members of the community who helped make this special day possible. Dr. Savage was generous with his time at the homeless shelter. Allison Daily, director of Pathfinders, explained the organization’s mission to ACDS sixth graders, then helped coordinate preparations for a dinner for the needy and actually delivered all the food the children made at the kitchens of the McAniff, Caine, Hostetler, and Cherry families. Lysa Reed documented the day with photos posted on We also thank Seth Sachson and the entire staff at the Aspen Animal Shelter for welcoming our second graders.

Third graders wish to send a special thank you to Carolyne Heldman and Tom Egan at Aspen Public Radio, who helped them tape a reading of the “I Have a Dream” speech and aired interviews with the children. At the base of the gondola on Monday morning, third and sixth grade classes led a public art event where they asked visitors about their own dreams of a better world. We thank Mike Kaplan, Carolyn Barabe, Buck Erickson, and Matthew Hamilton of the Aspen Skiing Co. Sixth graders also thank the Aspen City Council for the opportunity to speak about their plans during public comment at a council session earlier in the month.

Engaging fully with the community that surrounds us is part of the joy of learning here at Aspen Country Day School. With the help of many partners in the nonprofits, families, and local businesses of our valley, we will continue to encourage children to consider their sense of purpose in the world around them and to ask, “What am I doing for others?”

Carolyn Hines

Aspen’s homeless look for early-morning alternatives to McDonald’s

At 6:50 each morning, homeless guests at St. Mary Catholic Church must leave because of the upcoming 7 a.m. mass. In the past, they would typically go to McDonald’s to warm up and get a bite to eat and a cup of coffee, said Vince Savage, who runs the Aspen Homeless Shelter.

But now that the Aspen McDonald’s is out of business, the transients must find another go-to spot during the frigid winter mornings. The library is a popular hangout but doesn’t open until 9 a.m.

The homeless shelter has about 20 to 23 users, Savage said, adding that there are probably 40 to 45 homeless people in the Aspen area.

“They used to be able to walk over to the McDonald’s and get breakfast,” Savage said, noting that Paul Nelson, who operated the Aspen franchise, provided the shelter with meal vouchers for the homeless folks.

“It was a nice thing to do,” Savage said, “McDonald’s showing it was socially conscious.”

At the outdoor fire pit on East Cooper Avenue on Wednesday, a few homeless folks huddled around the flames to stay warm. One of them, who asked to not be identified, said he enjoyed many warm mornings at McDonald’s. Now he hops the bus or walks to the Aspen Valley Hospital cafeteria, he said.

Michael Rainier Meehan-Keefe, 21, said he couch surfs around town and doesn’t use the Aspen Homeless Shelter’s services, which also includes a day center at the Health and Human Services building. McDonald’s was one of his early-morning spots to get warm.

“I’d have coffee and warm up,” he said.

Savage said he received a report from hospital security that there had been an increase in homeless people using the cafeteria since the McDonald’s closure.

“They said it was no problem, but they’re keeping an eye on it,” he said, adding that, “I think Aspen Valley Hospital is probably the second best deal in town for a meal.”

Hospital spokeswoman Ginny Dyche, however, said the cafeteria operator hasn’t noticed a surge in homeless customers in the wake of the McDonald’s going out of business.

“Homeless folks do come to our cafe for free coffee during meal times,” Dyche said in an email. “They occasionally buy a meal, as well. I understand on Saturday mornings we started seeing an increase of visits a couple of months ago (probably related to weather?). As far as seeing an increase since McDonald’s closed, the director of the department says she really hasn’t noticed that.”

High interest, no answers for Cdale homelessnes

The newly formed Carbondale Homeless Assistance has generated strong interest as it plays trial and error trying to find the best way to provide for people stranded in the freezing cold.

A “discover as you go process” is the only way to build such an organization from scratch, said Vince Savage, executive director of Aspen Homeless Shelter, who advised the Carbondale group Wednesday night.

Carbondale Homeless Assistance’s Facebook page is up and running with nearly 200 people joining in just the first few days.

First the group needs to figure out the scale of Carbondale’s homeless problem, then members should assess their available resources, said Savage.

Aspen Homeless Shelter offers a place to stay during the coldest months of the year, a hot meal each day and a 365-day-a-year facility with access to showers, washers and dryers and phone and Internet access for job searching.

But that level of service is not necessarily right for Carbondale, said Savage.

The group can start by forming a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, so that when it raises money, people know what their donations will be used for, he said.

Aspen Homeless Shelter started with a group of people wringing their hands much like the people in Carbondale Homeless Assistance, said Savage. “But you don’t have to have a entire program figured out before you get started.”

Local government will jump in once something good is happening, but group members shouldn’t expect the town to cross all the t’s and dot the i’s, he said.

Luckily, the number of Carbondale’s homeless is relatively small. Lynn Kirchner, who’s been spearheading the effort, said there are only four people with whom police consistently deal throughout the year, though that number grows during the summer.

The bottom line is to keep someone from dying this winter on Carbondale’s streets, said Robert Fullerton. He also suggested creating a “street sheet,” a list of available resources in the area that would be publishing periodically in the area’s newspapers.

Also, getting local law enforcement to join in is an important step because officers are in frequent contact with the homeless, said Savage.

The group is also looking for a fundraising venue, such as a website that would allow people to donate online.

But figuring out what services the group wants to provide will be central because people will want to know specifics of what they’re donating to, said Kirchner.

Whatever the money goes to, Kirchner stressed that people should buy what a homeless person needs rather than give them cash.

Even if the group is looking for a temporary warm space for when the weather drops to potentially deadly temperatures, finding the right location will be a big hurdle.

At the meeting Wednesday, the group was considering paying for hotel rooms that the homeless could use – an approach that could get people off the street immediately.

But by Thursday afternoon Kirchner felt that approach was a dead end. The hotels have already had bad experiences with some of the homeless in the area and were reluctant to open their doors to an organization that couldn’t cover the liability of a trashed room, she said.

Turning to the faith-based community might be the best option, said Savage. But even if a minister is willing, many churches have a board of trustees that has final say on building uses.

Each faith community will have to decide for itself whether serving the needy is a part of its mission, but for most it is, said Savage.

Carbondale doesn’t need a full-blown shelter, and maybe the best approach is simply buying the homeless bus passes to places with shelters like Glenwood Springs, said Kirchner.

“One doesn’t have to build an ark when all you need is a canoe,” said Savage.

This is no formula for helping the homeless because everyone is different, said Savage. “They all come with their own array of experiences and attitudes – and pride.”