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Keeping Summit Warm and Fed – Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week November 14-23 

Many years ago I found myself in a complicated living situation. Fresh out of college, I returned to Summit County to search for long-term employment and a dependable career in the mountains I deeply loved. My relationship with my boyfriend began to falter, which meant my housing also began to waver. I was struggling financially, deeply depressed, and masking many issues hoping they would just disappear. Eventually, I made the difficult decision to leave my boyfriend,  and struggled to find decent, affordable housing.

It was the off-season and money was tight. I was embarrassed and ashamed to ask my family for financial help. I was full of shame, and believed I needed to fix things on my own. It was during this time I learned about rental assistance, SNAP food cards, and many other resources available to members of Summit County who find themselves in vulnerable situations. I applied for rental assistance through the FIRC (Family and Intercultural Resource Center), received funds for food, and for the first time in many months I took a deep breath and focused on my future.

Struggling with issues like housing instability, homelessness, and hunger is increasing for residents of Summit County. These problems don’t just affect one demographic of the community; it can impact your friend, coworker, neighbor or acquaintance. Often these people are employed and contributing to the community, but experience a swift housing change, job lay off or decreased hours in the off-season, relationship challenges, or are restricted by immigration issues. It is not uncommon to see many families living together in a small space to save costs, or offering your couch to assist a friend while they secure housing.

Waking up hungry or cold is not easy. Studies show that issues like hunger and homelessness increase mental-health issues negatively. Escalations in depression, anxiety, and substance abuse are common. According to the Summit County Government Assessment from 2020, homeless children have worse physical and mental health, more developmental delays, increased behavioral issues, poor school attendance and performance, and other negative conditions.

Moving three or more times per year is associated with increased behavioral, emotional, and school-related problems. At this time, Summit County does not have a homeless shelter. November 14-23 is Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. What programs and resources are available to that vulnerable population, and how can we improve our community for all?

Housing Resources:

-Family and Intercultural Resource Center Supportive Services- rental and mortgage assistance, budgeting, utility assistance, and medical assistance.  https://www.summitfirc.org/en/supportive-services/

-Summit County Government and Social Services lease to locals housing incentive program https://www.summitcountyco.gov/1461/Lease-to-Locals

-Summit County Unsheltered Program to safely and legally live in your car or vehicle (email: unshelteredsummit@gmail.com, (970) 368-2204)


Food and Hunger Assistance (Full Schedule/Resources Below)

– Summit County Government Food/SNAP assistance program https://www.summitcountyco.gov/775/Food-AssistanceSNAP-Programs

– FIRC Community food markets in Breckenridge and Dillon https://www.summitfirc.org/en/food-for-all/

– Mobile Food Pantry by Food Bank of the Rockies at Frisco Bus Barn

– Local church community dinners and food banks (Father Dyer, Dillon Community Church, and St. John’s)

– Meals on Wheels for homebound seniors and adults with disabilities https://www.summitcountyco.gov/855/Senior-Services-Resources


For children and school lunches:
– Smart Bellies https://www.smartbellies.org/

– Summit County Government Free and Reduced Lunch Program https://www.summitk12.org/food-services/free-reduced


Mental Health, Job seeking, and Substance Abuse Resources:

– Summit Wellness Hub- Access and care for all individuals of our community. Addiction services, outpatient services, DUI education and therapy Services, LGBTQ+ support, crisis and trauma support, peer recovery, support groups and more. https://summitwellnesshub.org/

– Summit County Workforce Center- Assistance in resume building and job applications. (970) 668- 5361

– Building Hope- Scholarships for Therapy, Free connectedness events, Group support https://buildinghopesummit.org/

– One Degree App- Provides resources for basic needs including childcare, mental health resources, and food assistance specifically for Summit County. https://www.1degree.org/ 

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Please note that the Summit County Food banks are unique, and not the typical setup full of canned and non-perishable goods. The FIRC free food market is full of fresh produce, proteins, and dairy products. Participating in the free food markets helps free up funds for rent and other bills that may otherwise go unpaid because of grocery bills. The program is utilizing smart tablets for ordering and packing products, and point incentives for healthier options. These food banks are open to everyone in the community, and you are encouraged to use when needed. 

Living with hunger and homelessness is burdensome and challenging. The uncertainty of where you will sleep and when you may eat again is oppressive to anyone’s mental health. If you have been fortunate enough to have never experienced these struggles, be empathetic for those who do. Every person’s story and situation is unique, and someday it could be you or someone close to you faced with adversity.

More than 12 years later I am proud of where my life has settled. I own a home, a small business, and allocate time and money to give back to the community that supported me so much in a deep time of need. Summit County is home to many walks of life and doesn’t cater to just one demographic. If you are able, consider volunteering your time at a food bank or community event, donate funds to local non-profits and assistance programs, and practice kindness to those less fortunate than you.

Article by Alyse Piburn, special projects writer for Building Hope Summit County. If you have a story to share, reach out to her at alyse@buildinghopesummit.org.
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