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Homeless on the Western Slope

By Jeanette Messano

As most of us do, I occasionally wonder about people from my past and I look them up on Facebook to pop in and say hi, go have coffee or whatever to catch up. This time, however, I learned that the person I was wondering about had lost everything and was living down by the river near Ridgway. How he got to that point in his life is irrelevant. The fact is that he was there, it was late in the year, it was getting cold. He posted on Facebook about worrying about the upcoming winter;  he didn’t know what he was going to do.

It happened that my boyfriend and I were in the perfect position to help him. When we moved in together, we ended up with many more tents and sleeping bags than we needed. We put together a pack with a sleeping bag, a tent, a little kerosene cooker, a pair of sneakers and some food and gave it to our old friend. This gift helped a second person with shelter and food as well. A few months later, this man was able to lift himself; he found a job and a home and is doing much better.

In a report by Charles Schwab, 59% of Americans are currently living paycheck to paycheck. The loss of one paycheck can easily send a family spiraling into losing everything. Currently, there is more need than ever for support from food banks, soup kitchens and caring hearts.

Earlier this year, I set out to speak with those affected by homelessness as well as people that are trying to help. I set out on a cold day to visit with individuals flying signs. Time after time, I heard stories of how people were living normal lives until something caught them off guard. Sometimes it was sickness, sometimes it was the loss of a job, sometimes it was abuse. Individuals traveling that ran out of money, a young woman that fell in love with the wrong man as a teen and ran away, and a single mother that was unable to pay her bills, despite working full time at minimum wage, who lost her job and ended up staying at the local shelter with her four children. These stories could come from anyone of us.

I asked people what has helped them the most. More than anything, the most useful tool people had, while living on the street, was the access to smart phones.

Having access to a phone meant having the ability to seek help, to talk to family in another city, or to seek employment.  A phone from a free service like QLink—a service that provides a free phone and service plan to unemployed individuals—can be a life saver for people that would otherwise be unseen.

One person told me “My best resource was my phone. That’s how I found things and made online sales. . . And then Facebook Groups that you can put ads out for things if you need them. I found a few side jobs when I was on the road. Most of the ways I made my money was making my own jewelry—like wrap and rocks, braiding twine or leather for bracelets. The phone has always been my best resource. Without it everything else is a lot more difficult.”

Another unspoken need was simply the knowledge of what programs are available to help. After speaking with several people that were homeless, I began to wonder what resources there actually were.

I began looking for nonprofits, businesses and individuals that have programs in place to help people in need. Each group I spoke with had another group that they suggested I speak to. The list of resources grew and grew. Each organization was happy to talk about their mission and how they were doing in that mission. Many organizations were also happy for me to help.

As is typical for nonprofit organizations, groups that run food banks, shelters and soup kitchens are always in need of volunteers and donations. Many are struggling also to operate safely and effectively during the Covid Crisis.

MADA is one organization that serves the Montrose area that is a great resource that needs some help. They are always happy to receive donations and volunteers. They are looking for a director and board members. They have day services such as lockers and a clothing bank. They will also provide a mailing address to individuals. Currently, due to funding and the lack volunteers, several of the services they used to provide (such as showers and breakfast) have been temporarily suspended.

If you or anyone you know find yourself in a position needing help, please see this list in our Resources pages for a complete list of the services. Services, from housing to financial services, are listed along with contact information. Most of these groups will also accept food, clothing and monetary donations, and volunteers. If you know of any services that need to be added to this list, please comment below, reach out to us at or through our Facebook page.

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About the Author

Jeanette Messano is a graphic designer, a writer, a business owner, a mother, and an artist. She owns and operates JEM Graphics and founded the Mind Travelers online magazine. She loves life and-of course- an interesting story.

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Mind Travelers is a community blogging project. We publish articles about art, social issues, positivity and philosophy. We are located on the Western Slope of Colorado. For more information, to submit a story or to advertise with us, please email us at

Publisher: Jeanette Messano, JEM Graphics, LLC

Editor: Peggy Carey


Located on the beautiful Western Slope of Colorado

P.O. Box 853, Olathe, CO 81425