El Paso County’s disaster assistance center aims to connect evacuees with goods and services available. It served more than 200 households Thursday, its first day of operations. As KRCC’s Liz Ruskin found, it was crowded Friday with workers, volunteers and displaced families.
Terry Rosental came to contact her insurance company, one of many set up in mobile offices in the center’s parking lot.
"I’m at a loss, of, you know … I didn’t have time to grab everything I needed. I just lost my husband last month so my paperwork was scattered."
Her house in Black Forest is on the list of homes destroyed, and she was headed inside to find out how the assistance center could help her.
County officials say the needs are varied, but so far there’s been heavy demand for the essentials: food, clothing, shelter -- and shelter for animals. County Commissioner Peggy Littleton says housing is tight because some families who lost their homes in last year’s Waldo Canyon fire are still in interim housing. Realtors and apartment finders are at the center to help out. Littleton says evacuees can also get short-term financial help to defray the cost of hotel rooms.
"I think some of the saddest thing has been for me is people who come in here who’ve lost their homes during Waldo Canyon, moved to Black Forest, and now lost their house in Black Forest. That has been really tragic, and we’ve had probably five or six of those families."
Last year’s disaster, though, has helped improve service to this year’s victims. Littleton says they had a good idea what the needs would be and they were able to open the doors in 39 hours, barely more than half the time it took a year ago.
The assistance center is on Garden of the Gods Road, in the County’s Citizen Service Center. It’s open every day, 8 to 6.