LIFT-UP struggles to help

Residents, food bank scramble to make ends meet

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Steamboat residents are struggling to pay their rent and LIFT-UP of Routt County is struggling to help them. Daily phone calls for monetary assistance have been draining the LIFT-UP coffers, executive director David Freseman said, and the organization is starting to turn people away.

"Hardly a day goes by that we don't get a call for rent assistance," Freseman said. "We have several accounts that can be used to help someone in need, but there is not a ton of money. In some cases, we had to say no. We just don't have enough money to cover it all."

The number of calls for rent assistance is higher than usual, Freseman said.

"A lot of it is due to unemployment. In several cases, people are laid off all summer and they have been living paycheck to paycheck. They need help until they can find another job," he said. "In some cases, employers have simply cut back on hours."

The rise in rent assistance calls have been coming from across the county. Hayden has a special emergency fund set aside for Hayden residents.

In Steamboat, money for rent assistance comes from a housing needs grant fund given to LIFT-UP by the Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors, and LIFT-UP is waiting for another possible grant from the Colorado Board of Realtors.

Until then, if someone appears eligible for assistance, LIFT-UP has been referring them to the Department of Human Services.

When the funds are available and the client is eligible, LIFT-UP will pay one month's rent or a portion of that amount.

Calls also have increased for utility assistance, Freseman said. LIFT-UP received a grant from the Colorado Energy Assistance Foundation to help people pay their electric bills when there is an emergency.

"Even that (grant money) is starting to run low," Freseman said.

Most recent calls have come from families with children, he said, "two parents with children and single parents."

The news is not all bad, however. Although food banks across the state are struggling to stay stocked in the face of increasing demands, LIFT-UP's shelves are full.

Churches have been donating a lot of food. The Routt County government employees ran a food drive. Collection bins set up during Steamboat Springs Free Concert Series shows have been filled by generous attendees. The Steamboat Rotary and the Steamboat Meat and Seafood Company donated food, and local stores continue to donate, he said.

"We're struggling with other things, but with food we are doing rather well," Freseman said. "Our food donations have been good this summer."

To make donations to the LIFT-UP of Routt County, call 870-0727 or e-mail liftup@springsips.com

To reach Autumn Phillips call 871-4210

or e-mail aphillips@steamboatpilot.com

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