[Hpn] Colorado Springs Mega-Shelter Letter-to-the-Editor

HOBOMATT@aol.com HOBOMATT@aol.com
Sun, 10 Sep 2000 10:00:40 -0400 (EDT)


The following is in our local paper this morning. A few interesting points:
"Our city is experiencing a homeless crisis. A recent independent study 
indicates that 1,920 individuals are homeless or at near risk of becoming 
homeless."

"At our shelter, 230 men, women and children make do with current facilities 
because they have nowhere else to go."

These two statements do not make sense together when you realize that our 
Shelter has 270 beds! 40 empty beds during this "crisis"? The study found 
such things as that we have suffered  a 234% increase in homelessness in out 
community. We are supposed to have 800 to 850 people on the streets or in 
shelters every night. Meanwhile the shelter has had empty beds every night 
for a year, the local soup kitchen has seen a steady 2% a year or so increase 
over the last ten years. The percentage of housed people in the soup line has 
risen considerably over the last ten years. Yes, we need to address the needs 
of poor people in our community but building this not-really-needed $6 
million mega-shelter is NOT our highest priority!

IN RESPONSE
Colorado Springs needs to combine homeless service agencies in one place

This is in response to the letter, "Megashelter is not the way to help area's 
homeless," in the Sept. 6 Gazette. The Red Cross Montgomery Community Center 
for homeless services is the right plan, at the right place, at the right 
time.

Our city is experiencing a homeless crisis. A recent independent study 
indicates that 1,920 individuals are homeless or at near risk of becoming 
homeless. This number is greater than earlier studies and substantiates the 
need for Colorado Springs to do something more and different to address the 
needs of the homeless.

For many years, current homeless service providers have dealt with inadequate 
facilities that do not provide an acceptable standard of quality care and 
service. The Marian House Soup Kitchen and the Red Cross Homeless Shelter 
were never meant or designed to serve these functions. We have done our best 
to provide a decent and safe environment. At our shelter, 230 men, women and 
children make do with current facilities because they have nowhere else to 
go. Their personal space consists of an army cot and whatever they can place 
under it. Beds are too large and there is no room for even a footlocker.

Collaborations do work. The Red Cross, the Marian House Soup Kitchen, the 
Community Health Centers, and many other homeless service agencies have 
collaborated for years at each other's location. These collaborative service 
arrangements are limited due to the lack of space. Service locations are 
spread across our community. Our clients have repeatedly stated that getting 
to their regular appointments has been a major roadblock to them getting back 
on their feet. Considering the unique collaborations that have existed among 
homeless service agencies, centralizing services on one site makes much more 
sense than multiple service locations in neighborhoods or downtown streets in 
Colorado Springs.

We are empathetic to the Mill Street neighborhood. They have repeatedly 
stated that they have homeless people in their neighborhood. We agree and 
acknowledge that homeless people have been there for many, many years. Our 
presence next to the neighborhood can have positive results. Our offers of 
neighborhood improvement projects and support can make the neighborhood 
stronger and safer. We have made many changes and additions to our proposal 
at the request of the neighbors and will continue to listen and respond to 
everyone's concerns.

I am dismayed by the current depiction of the homeless in our community. The 
majority of the homeless are not dirty, drug- and alcohol-dependent vagrant 
men. They are like many of us, with hopes for a better life. Nearly all never 
expected that they would need a helping hand. Unfortunately, nearly one 
household in four in El Paso County has reported experiencing a problem in 
meeting basic needs during a 12-month period. Homelessness is a part of our 
community now, whether we want to admit it or not, and a long-awaited 
solution to help with this issue is now available.


David Morikawa
Chief Executive Officer
American Red Cross, Pikes Peak Chapter
Colorado Springs