Disaster Center in old DHS building gives Waldo fire victims assistance in 1 place
Looking for a place to combine resources for Waldo Canyon Fire victims, El Paso County had to look no further than its former Department of Human Services (DHS) building at 105 N. Spruce St.
“We needed a centralized location, so people wouldn't have to go all over town,” said County Commissioner Sallie Clark. And with plans for a privately owned hotel in that building moving forward but “still in flux,” as she described it, county officials decided to reopen the four-story DHS edifice and use it for human services one last time.
Called the Disaster Recovery Center (DRC), the unadorned, hastily set-up facility - taking up the first floor only - houses a range of services for people who experienced loss in the fire, with representatives of private, nonprofit and public entities on hand to answer questions and/or give aid.
The DRC is open to citizens daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. During those hours, residents can also call in at 444-8300. The website is shr.elpasoco.com/Waldo+Canyon+Fire+Information.
Clark could not predict how long the center would operate. “We're leaving that open,” she said. “Some people lost everything. This is one day at a time.”
Entities with representatives at the Disaster Recovery Center include the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department, Colorado Springs Utilities, Colorado Springs Emergency Management, United Way of the Pikes Peak Region, Care and Share, several insurance companies and the Colorado Division of Insurance, Peak Vista (Community Health), Red Cross of the Pikes Peak Region, AT&T, County Attorney's Office, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and CRS Temporary Housing.
Also, offered in the center are counseling areas, computers and a printer and a day care for families while they're talking to different agencies.
In the DHS parking lot are two 45-foot-long mobile vans to provide disaster relief. One of them belongs to the Verizon communications company. With a large satellite dish on its roof, the van offers fire victims a recharging service for cell phones, the opportunity to use the Internet or to make free phone calls to anywhere they want. “We move this bus all over the country,” said Kennedy O'Brien, a Verizon employee at the Southgate store who was volunteering with other Verizon folks to man the van July 1.
The other mobile van was driven here from New York by the North Shore Animal League of America. Inside the van is a kennel with room for up to 35 small animals whose owners temporarily can't house them. Also being provided at no charge is cat and dog food and even pet toys. “We're here for the duration,” said Devera Lynn of the Animal League, “whatever people need to help them get back to their lives.”
According to Jennifer Brown of County Public Information, the DRC opened June 30 and served about 400 people each of its first day two days.
In setting up the DRC, the county worked with the Colorado Department of Local Affairs and the Division of Emergency Management, she said.
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