[Hpn] Big Threat from Mega-shelter Backers to Colorado Springs

HOBOMATT@aol.com HOBOMATT@aol.com
Fri, 10 Nov 2000 08:58:01 -0500 (EST)

This broke last night. To leave the homeless business in two years is a 
business move. To start reducing beds early next year is a threatened 
punishment to our town for not giving them what they want. Reducing beds 
would create a homeless problem we currently do not have.
Matt Parkhouse, RN
Colorado Springs, CO

<<Red Cross may close shelter

By Eric Gorski/The Gazette
Edited by Jim Borden; headline by Sherida Warner

Local American Red Cross leaders have voted to get out of the homeless 
shelter business within two years if the City Council rejects a plan to build 
a $6 million center consolidating homeless services.
The controversial project has pitted the Red Cross against a south downtown 
neighborhood that doesn't want it.

By considering future scenarios now - and talking about them - the Red Cross 
is walking a fine line before the council votes Tuesday on whether to approve 
the $6 million proposal.

"We just need to say what our options are if this doesn't go through," said 
David Morikawa, executive director of the local Red Cross chapter. "This is 
not a threat to City Council."

Morikawa said the Red Cross' executive committee voted Wednesday on steps to 
take if the project is rejected.

The agency would begin reducing beds at its existing shelter at 709 S. Sierra 
Madre St. early next year and close the shelter within two years, he said.

That would allow time for another agency to open a shelter, though none has 
expressed interest. The full Red Cross board will consider the changes 
Wednesday, a day after the council vote.

Morikawa said the agency can't provide adequate services at the existing 
shelter and doesn't have the money to move. An old warehouse, the shelter 
lacks space for residents to store belongings, Morikawa said. He said 
$250,000 has gone into repairs and renovations in the past four years. 
Feeding residents alone costs $100,000 annually, Morikawa said.

Mostly, the American Red Cross is known for disaster services. Only eight 
chapters nationwide run homeless shelters. The local chapter agreed to open a 
shelter in 1982 at the request of the city and El Paso County. The Red Cross 
gets some city money to run to the shelter.

The best solution, Morikawa said, lies in the proposed Montgomery Community 
Center, which would bring together the shelter, a soup kitchen, health clinic 
and other services. The El Pomar Foundation has pledged $5 million to help 
build it.

A central location, the argument goes, would save the agencies money and be 
more convenient for the homeless.

The City Planning Commission voted 5-1 against the proposal in August, 
agreeing with neighbors' concerns about traffic, safety and other issues.

Pam Perry, president of the Mill Street Neighborhood Association, the 
project's chief opponent, said the Red Cross plans "sound like a departure 
from their purpose, to help people." She said it sounds like a threat.

The future of the existing Marian House Soup Kitchen also is in question if 
the center proposal goes down. Krzysztof Myszkowski, executive director of 
Catholic Charities of Colorado Springs, said the soup kitchen may need to 
close because neighboring St. Mary's Cathedral is considering selling the 
property to help pay for a church renovation.

Regardless, the soup kitchen building is inadequate, Myszkowski said. He said 
if the property is sold, the city would need to buy a new site because the 
Catholic diocese can't afford one.

Myszkowski said the city should expect to play a greater role in providing 
homeless services if the center is defeated. City Manager Jim Mullen said 
that isn't in the city's plans, "but things change constantly. Council may 
see it differently."

Kristin Donovan, an El Pomar spokeswoman, said the foundation has not decided 
what would happen to its grant if the project loses. She said El Pomar will 
continue to give money to agencies that serve the homeless.>>