[Hpn] Colorado Springs Mega-Shelter Editorial

HOBOMATT@aol.com HOBOMATT@aol.com
Mon, 21 Aug 2000 21:05:41 -0400 (EDT)

In a message dated 8/20/00 7:12:09 AM Mountain Daylight Time, HOBOMATT writes:

<< OUR VIEW: An urgent need
 The best location for Montgomery Center already has been found 
 One compelling fact must not be lost in the heat of political wrangling over 
the proposed consolidation of services for the homeless southwest of 
downtown's heart.
 It is this: Those in crisis in Colorado Springs - without a roof over their 
heads or at risk of becoming so - stand a far better chance of taking control 
of their lives again if the Montgomery Community Center becomes reality than 
if it does not.
 The classic conflict of interests in play here ultimately should not be 
allowed to overwhelm our community's capacity to do more to bring 
independence and self-sufficiency within the grasp of many who have too 
little hope today.
 The collaboration of service providers headed by the American Red Cross and 
the project's major funder - El Pomar Foundation - have characterized as 
ideal the proposed 3.8-acre site adjacent to the Martin Drake power station 
and within the downtown corridor, already part of the home ground of the 
homeless. Red Cross has negotiated a lease/purchase agreement with Colorado 
Springs Utilities with a price tag of $320,000.
 It is close to public transportation, traditional footpaths and homeless 
dwelling areas as well as possible sources of employment and transitional 
 And with the exception of the small neighborhood on its east side, it is in 
an area of heavy commercial uses, including the power station just to its 
north. Immediately to the west and south is Fountain Creek.
 There isn't a better site available, nor is there any other in the downtown 
area - regardless of qualities - that would prove to be less controversial.
 Adjacent residents in the Mill Street neighborhood understandably have had 
questions about safety and traffic as well as the potential for erosion of 
their own right to peaceful enjoyment of their property.
 Those concerns needed to be taken seriously and they have been, through a 
public process that has grown to unprecedented proportions. Issues raised by 
the neighborhood have been addressed to the point the city planning staff 
recommended approval of the project, though the planning commission chose not 
to follow suit. 
 Nevertheless, the collaboration of providers and El Pomar have shown by 
their actions they understand fully the burden this project carries to be a 
responsible and responsive neighbor.
 It is not at all clear how the conflict can be further mediated at this 
point, while maintaining the integrity of the project. But that is not to say 
further discussions would be fruitless. Both sides have indicated a 
willingness to keep lines of communication open.
 However, in the event they can't reach full accommodation on every point at 
issue, the City Council ought to give this project the chance to prove itself 
when it hears the appeal of the planning commission decision this fall.
 Emergency human services providers in the trenches every day believe in it, 
and many caught in a seemingly endless cycle of despair - increasingly 
children and families - will benefit greatly from it.
 Consolidating Catholic Charities' Marian House soup kitchen and expanding 
drop-in services, Red Cross emergency and transitional shelter programs and 
Community Health Centers' medical, dental and respite care programs for the 
homeless will be a major step forward. As well, another seven providers also 
have indicated to date they want to have outreach programs there.
 While these organizations collaborate today within the limitations of being 
widely dispersed, the center should prove to be a springboard for 
unprecedented synergies in meeting client needs.
 As well, access for clients will be made far easier. Assessment of needs and 
development of well-coordinated case plans for those who hope to regain or 
preserve their independence will be greatly strengthened. And the fact that 
the capital costs will be privately funded, including a $5 million lead gift 
from El Pomar, makes its all the more compelling.
 To say no to this effort would not be a victory for our community. The 
underlying problem of how best to help the homeless help themselves would 
remain. And there would remain as well difficult and urgent decisions to make 
about where these services should be located for long term. 
 The best solution likely to present itself already is at hand.>>

Contrast this editorial with the one I sent in a week or so ago. The Gazette 
(we're a 1-paper town) is unabashedly a mega-shelter supporter, with one of 
the editors on the Red Cross Board of Directors. Until the Planning 
Commission rejection and appeal to City Council, there has been NO public 
discussion about the merits of this model of service delivery. 

"While these organizations collaborate today within the limitations of being 
widely dispersed, the center should prove to be a springboard for 
unprecedented synergies in meeting client needs."  
Regarding this quote: I have, for fourteen months, been searching for a 
campus style model that acually accomplishes this lofty goal (and can back it 
with data). So far, I have found none. Even the research done by our local 
campus boosters revealed that ALL the sites (4) that they visited had 
problems with "collaboration and cooperation among the partnering agencies". 
I'm still looking....
Matt Parkhouse, RN;
Colorado Springs, CO