From Dec. 1 to 7, customers can bring an unlimited amount of cold weather gear to the restaurant and receive either free taco cards or stamps on their customer cards, depending on the items.
“If people donate jackets or blankets, then they get a free taco card coupon, and that’s something they could use right away, save or give to someone else,” said Dam Good Tacos co-owner and Colorado State University Public Health alumna Ali Hatcher.
Through this promotion, Hatcher wants the homeless to feel they have a “mutually supportive relationship” with local businesses and Fort Collins residents.
“We realize that it’s important for us to embrace and coexist with the transient population,” Hatcher said. “It’s important for a socially responsible community to not ignore that population, but it’s easy to do when you don’t have that regular contact.”
Their storefront is located in an alleyway, so Hatcher has frequent interactions with the local population experiencing homeless.
“Someone who is currently living on the street has their own story and has their own reasons,” Hatcher said. “Sometimes it’s by choice and sometimes it’s not. We’ve met plenty of really exceptional individuals who give us gifts as often as we give them gifts.”
To aid in the promotion, Dam Good Tacos reached out to Homeless Gear, a local non-profit providing services to homeless populations in Fort Collins and throughout Colorado.
“We have launched and developed a family of five programs that provide our homeless partners with the support that they need to survive, move forward and, ultimately, escape the grip of homelessness,” said Homeless Gear Executive Director David Rout.
According to Rout, there are about 15,000 people experiencing homelessness at any given time throughout Colorado. Even closer to home, more than 1,000 Poudre School District students suffer homelessness each year.
“Homelessness is a complex problem that requires multi-faceted solutions, and our community is working hard to implement solutions in a variety of areas,” Rout said. “Those solutions include more affordable and supportive housing, improved mental health support, better case management and emergency programs that prevent people from losing their homes in the first place.”
Chelsey Mandell, the resource development coordinator for Homeless Gear, believes that in addition to getting help to the people who need it most, promotions like these raise awareness about homelessness and those organizations working to treat it.
“We are very, very lucky that we work with tons of different businesses and organizations throughout Larimer County and all of Colorado,” Mandell said. “As cliché as it might sound, even collecting one sleeping bag for one person, that’s one person who, if they’re sleeping outside, probably isn’t going to freeze.”
To Hatcher, passing along used winter clothing can be a simple and gratifying act.
“For no other reason than that, I would recommend that people give here during this gear drive or make a point to give at least once during this holiday season, specifically when they know it’s going to go to someone who would need it,” Hatcher said.
Collegian Business and Technology Beat Reporter Nicholas LeVack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NicholasLeVack.