[Hpn] Homeless center dispute in Colo. Springs

Sun, 14 May 2000 14:56:25 -0400 (EDT)

  This is far more than a NIMBY fight. The proposed Complex, nicknamed "the 
Palace of Homelessness" by more than a few, will offer next to no new 
services to the local homeless population. Conversations with downtown people 
(who are  willing to talk about it) disclose that the "Palace" is being 
marketed to the downtown community as a social cleansing effort: Support us 
and we'll get the homeless out of Downtown.  The organizers say that the 
consolidation will help inter-agency communication. A little perhaps, but 
certainly not $6 million worth. In over 20 years of interacting with homeless 
people, I have never had one tell me he or she was stuck on the streets 
because the various service providers were too far apart. 
   The place will be huge, on 3.7 acres, they are planning on housing 400 
residents, with a couple hundred more day users, right across a 20 foot 
street from a residential neighborhood.
Matt Parkhouse, RN; Colorado Springs, CO 
Neighbors up in arms

By Eric Gorski/The Gazette
Edited by Jim Borden; headline by Jeanne Davant/The Gazette

Weeks of negotiations between organizers and neighbors of a proposed homeless 
social-service complex have broken down, setting up what's likely to be a 
tough fight as the $6 million project inches toward a City Council vote.
The division was clear Saturday at a public meeting at the City 
Administration Building that drew about 50 people.

"Our neighborhood does not want this shelter and this conglomerated thing," 
said Edenna Hackos, who lives on Sierra Madre Street near the 3.7-acre site 
south of downtown's Drake Power Plant. "We've tried to be polite and kind, 
but that's the bottom line."

A coalition of nonprofit groups, led by the El Pomar Foundation and the 
American Red Cross, wants to build a center consolidating services for the 
city's homeless on a vacant piece of land owned by Colorado Springs 
Utilities. The building would include a shelter, soup kitchen, medical clinic 
and other social services run by several agencies.

Organizers have filed development plans with the city and need approval from 
the Planning Commission and City Council to move ahead.

Quinn Peitz, head of planning for the city, said it's unlikely the project 
will be considered in July as originally planned because the application is 
so complex.

Once splintered over the project, residents of the small neighborhood east of 
the site are now solidly against it. On Saturday, they told organizers to 
look for a new site.

A task force of seven residents has met almost weekly for the past four 
months with city planners and project organizers to iron out neighborhood 
concerns. The residents are worried about loitering, crime, traffic and other 
problems a large influx of homeless people might bring.

On May 4, the seven-member group wrote a letter to the city voicing strong 
opposition, saying, "it appears this project has been hurriedly put together 
with apparently little consideration for the devastating impact" it could 

Neighbors are against moving the Marian House soup kitchen to the center 
because it would generate heavy foot traffic.

However, if the project does go through, neighbors have outlined 37 steps 
they think should be taken. Among them are street and curb work, 24-hour 
off-duty police patrols and a fence east of the center with an iron 
ornamental top.

Also, residents in a two-block area to the east who don't want to stay should 
be offered buyouts, the letter says.

Rickie Stuart, a member of the neighborhood task force, said residents who 
once supported the project turned against it because organizers "have added 
this and that" to the center since it was announced in December.

She said neighbors are most upset about the addition of an El Paso County 
Health Department office that would offer testing for HIV, AIDS and sexually 
transmitted diseases.

Stuart said the only acceptable solution is a new site away from any 
neighborhood. Tony Koren of the El Pomar Foundation said Saturday no other 
sites are being considered.

    Proposed social-services complex

The proposed Montgomery Community Center - named for a former El Pomar 
Foundation trustee - would consolidate services for the city's homeless under 
one roof.

The building would include a Red Cross shelter, Marian House Soup Kitchen and 
a Community Health Centers clinic, among other things.

Organizers would lease the land for $1 a year from Colorado Springs Utilities.

El Pomar has pledged $5 million for the project, with the Red Cross expected 
to kick in $1 million.