On behalf of Voces Unidas, I would like to express our heartfelt gratitude for the overwhelming support you have shown our newest members of the community.
Since news broke last November about the 80 unhoused Venezuelans living under the Carbondale bridge, Voces Unidas has been working tirelessly to mobilize various organizations to help support their needs, including nonprofits, the Town of Carbondale, regional governments, and more than 100 community volunteers. Additionally, working in partnership with Rep. Elizabeth Velasco, Gov. Jared Polis, Speaker Julie McCluskie, and members of the Joint Budget Committee, we helped authorize a $5 million emergency funding supplemental that will ultimately provide much-needed resources for local nonprofits and governments.
Thanks to your generous support, Voces Unidas was also able to invest nearly $80,000 in direct assistance and advocacy efforts for our newcomers. This includes the $35,600 that was donated by more than 130 individuals and businesses from within our community.
Although direct service does not fall within the scope of our organization's mission, we decided to step in and offer assistance during the initial response phase of this particular crisis. This decision was primarily driven by the fact that no other entity stepped forward to take responsibility. To facilitate our involvement, we hired a full-time staff member who played a crucial role in overseeing the volunteer-run shelter at the Third Street Center in Carbondale. Her responsibilities included managing support for families with children and coordinating hot meals and clothing drives, however this role was always intended to be temporary, until appropriate government agencies and nonprofit organizations assumed control. Therefore, on January 7, 2024, we officially stepped away from this specific role.
Moving forward, Voces Unidas will continue advocating for more humane government and nonprofit support for the more than 170 unhoused Venezuelans who may still be living in the Roaring Fork Valley. Despite all of the generosity and goodwill, we are still far from where we need to be. Garfield County government has failed to fulfill its responsibilities and provide any meaningful support directly or indirectly, and we have yet to see the direct involvement of Pitkin and Eagle governments. Moreover, we have not seen the type of case management work needed to connect people to crucial resources, employment opportunities, training programs, transitional housing, and more. While we have been able to provide shelter for 40-50 individuals, many are left to sleep outdoors in cars. This is unacceptable.
In closing, we would like to extend our heartfelt appreciation to the Third Street Center for generously offering their community room as a temporary shelter. This space has not only served as a safe haven but has also become a central hub for delivering essential services to all the recent arrivals. Without a doubt, this selfless action alone has been instrumental in saving lives. Additionally, we are grateful to the Town of Carbondale for its commitment to hiring staff to operate shelters, provide meals and coordinate other support. Those services will have a critical impact on the lives of many, and we remain committed to supporting their efforts via advocacy.
Most importantly, we thank you once again for standing alongside Voces Unidas as we strive towards a more inclusive and compassionate community for all.
Alex Sánchez is president and CEO of Voces Unidas de las Montañas