[Hpn] Colorado Springs Mega-Shelter
Thu, 10 Aug 2000 12:23:48 -0400 (EDT)
This was in today's local paper. The backers are really starting to swim
upstreram in their desire to locate an un-needed (our main shelter has
enjoyed empty beds for over a year) "homeless campus" in a quiet residential
neighborhood. The primary purpose is looking more and more like a plan to
sequester homeless providers, and their clients, in an out-of-Downtown Gulag.
Matt Parkhouse, RN; Colorado Springs, CO
Shelter backers not giving up
By Eric Gorski/The Gazette
Edited by Mike Braham
Six days after being dealt a blow by the City Planning Commission, the
American Red Cross and El Pomar Foundation made it clear they are pushing
forward with plans to build a one-stop center for the city's homeless.
The agencies on Wednesday appealed the commission's 5-1 vote against the
project and asked for an Oct. 10 hearing before the City Council.
The commission broke with a city Planning Department recommendation and sided
with neighbors' concerns that the $6 million Montgomery Community Center
would overwhelm their small working-class neighborhood south of downtown with
increased traffic and safety concerns.
The appeal counters that the proposal meets city zoning criteria and is in
city's best interests.
The likelihood of at least a two-month delay between votes means both sides
will get a chance to either work together one more time or, if that fails,
sharpen their arguments.
"This is a proposal we've been working on diligently on for three years,"
said Debbie Mitguard, who's coordinating the project for the Red Cross. "We
still believe adamantly this is the right thing to do in this community."
The neighborhood group that opposes the project is already balking at the
Oct. 10 date before the City Council. Two of its leaders are going to be out
Typically, appeals to Planning Commission decisions are heard at the next
regularly scheduled City Council meeting.
But in its appeal, the Red Cross cited scheduling difficulties as the reason
for needing more time. Granting such delays is normal, said Quinn Peitz, head
of city planning. The neighbors can ask for a delay, too.
Organizers, neighbors and city planners met for months trying to craft an
agreeable design. Several changes were made to the design, but they weren't
enough for neighbors.
On some matters, compromises weren't possible. The neighbors wanted a soup
kitchen removed from the design, a demand that organizers were unwillling to
The center would consolidate services - including a shelter, soup kitchen and
medical clinic, all run by different agencies- that are now scattered around
town. El Pomar has pledged $5 million.
Representatives from the Red Cross, El Pomar and the neighborhood said
Wednesday they are open to more talks.
"We hope by all of us staying in the process, we can find the best solution,"
said Lyn Akers, a neighborhood representative. The best approach, she said,
is "to keep hammering away at what works and what doesn't work for each side
and find the middle ground together."
At the same time, both sides will seek to frame the discussion as reaching
beyond one neighborhood.
"We hope we can bring this issue to the whole city, so the whole city can see
it doesn't belong in any residential neighborhood that affects children and
families," said Pam Perry, a neighborhood resident.
Project organizers take a different view. El Pomar president Thayer Tutt said
he hopes the City Council will take a look at the "bigger picture."
"From El Pomar's point of view, the whole reason we got involved with this
project was to try to help a segment of the population - the homeless - get
back on their feet," Tutt said. "This has been cast as El Pomar versus the
neighborhood. That is the last thing we ever intended it to be. We hope we
can get back to the real issue at hand."