Women in need fill HEART House

By John Miller
jmiller@taosnews.com
Posted 12/9/19

After three years of stops and starts, HEART of Taos finally opened its shelter for women and children on Tuesday (Dec. 3), and its beds are quickly filling up, displaying a community need HEART’s backers had long predicted.

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Women in need fill HEART House

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After three years of stops and starts, HEART of Taos finally opened its shelter for women and children on Tuesday (Dec. 3), and its beds are quickly filling up, displaying a community need HEART’s backers had long predicted.

“We opened at 9 a.m. and there was already a woman waiting there, waiting to complete her intake,” said Kim Park, the organization’s executive director since September 2018, after finishing a marathon workday overseeing the shelter’s successful grand opening.

While that first client declined to stay at the new shelter, located in a neighborhood at 1213 Lower Ranchitos Road in Taos, a young mother with her son arrived soon after, followed by a single woman seeking shelter from the winter weather.

And in the 24 hours since the opening, the shelter’s phones have been ringing off the hook, Park said, with calls from other local service agencies – like Community Against Violence, Las Cumbres and Tiwa Babies – seeking temporary stays for families working to find long-term housing solutions in Taos County.

By the end of the week, Park predicts that all 15 beds at Heart House will be occupied.

“As I was leaving this morning, there was another couple of people coming in. There’s going to be a steady flow of people,” she said.

The shelter aims to offer breakfast and dinner for guests. On Tuesday night, Park said a board member bought sandwiches for everyone staying the night. In the future, she is hopeful that St. James Episcopal Church will allow HEART staff – and volunteers – to prepare meals in the church’s commercial kitchen. Park said she’ll also call on local food markets or restaurants to donate food items.

Funding remains tenuous. Park chose to open the shelter with a little over $80,000 in operational funding in hand, but total annual costs to run the shelter will likely be around $368,000.

But the opening itself has helped increase the flow of donations. Park said some checks from donors arrived in their mailbox this week. She recently submitted grant requests to Chevron in Questa, Centinel Bank and Wells Fargo. Soon, she’ll also apply for grants through Taos Community Foundation and Taos County.

Park said a feeling of relief pervades the five-bedroom, three-bath house that opened its doors on Tuesday – not only for the clients who have found a way to avoid the streets, but for staff members who have waited a long time to see HEART follow through on its original promise.

“All of the staff are really excited about just being open,” Park said, laughing. “Everyone’s been waiting for this. We just want it to be successful so that it will continue to be a resource because you really see the relief on their faces when they have a place.”

Find out more and donate at  heartoftaos.org  or call  (575) 776-4245.

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