[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
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
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
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
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.