[Hpn] Colorado Springs Mega-shelter is Dead

HOBOMATT@aol.com HOBOMATT@aol.com
Fri, 22 Jun 2001 10:18:17 -0400 (EDT)


The El Pomar Foundation pulled the plug on the planned-in-secret Montgomery 
Community Center mega-shelter yesterday morning. Since it was announced two 
years ago, the mega-shelter promoters have not just ignored but actively 
avoided alternative ideas as to how to best address the needs of homeless 
people. Hopefully now, we will have open, public discussion and planning on 
this issue. As the article below details, what the homeless DON'T need is a 
$6 million waiting room for needed services. There are several more articles 
at the Gazette's website

www.gazette.com

Matt Parkhouse,RN;
Colorado Springs, CO

<<Homeless left to wait 

By Todd Hegert/The Gazette

Randy Seeley doesn't see a lack of services for the homeless and hungry in 
Colorado Springs. But getting to them can be a full-time job, he said.

"I can spend five to six hours a day going from places like the Social 
Security office to the soup kitchen to the homeless shelter," said Seeley, 
who has been homeless for five years. "There's lots of people (who do) a good 
job of caring for us, but they're too spread apart for homeless people to get 
around to and take care of their business."

That was the crux of the problem the Montgomery Community Center proposal was 
designed to address -- consolidating a variety of services to help the 
homeless and improverished in a location with ready access.

But Thursday's announcement that the American Red Cross and the El Pomar 
Foundation are dropping plans to locate the center in the Mill Street 
neighborhood south of downtown makes it unlikely the Montgomery center 
concept will come to fruition in the city, supporters said.

At a news conference held to announce the demise of the Montgomery center 
proposal, opponents urged backers to find a location that would not impact 
existing neighborhoods.

But Ann Carlisle Holcomb, CEO of the Pikes Peak Chapter of the Red Cross, 
said that is not a practical solution.

"This (the downtown area) is where the homeless are and we need to be where 
the homeless are. It would be easy to buy land out in Yoder, but that's not 
where the homeless are," she said.

The extent of homelessness in the area is hard to quantify, but a study 
commissioned a year ago by the city estimated that more than 800 people are 
living in parks, under bridges and in the shelters of Colorado Springs. As 
many as 1,200 people are at risk of joining them.

Marian House Soup Kitchen serves free meals to about 350 homeless people a 
day, said its director, Maryann Stadjuhar. Stadjuhar said a few of the 14 
service providers who were to consolidate services at the Montgomery center 
have begun to coordinate them at Marian House. But she said the facility is 
inadequate for handling the number of services and the homeless clients who 
use them.

Seeley, one of the hundreds of homeless eating lunch at Marian House on 
Thursday, said the community has little understanding of the causes and 
realities of homelessness in Colorado Springs.

"I've been trying to work all my life. I'm just getting old and can't do it 
anymore. But most people think we're homeless just because we're lazy," 
Seeley said.

Christal McCune, who lives with her husband and three young children at the 
Red Cross Shelter, said misconceptions about the homeless often make it 
difficult for them to get steady jobs needed to regain their independence.

"My husband works two shifts a day as a day laborer. But it's like we have 
the plague or something when employers find out we're living at the shelter. 
They don't realize how hard we're working to get out of here," McCune said.

Still, McCune said she didn't support the proposed Montgomery center.

"I didn't think building another shelter was a good idea in the first place. 
I'd rather see them use money to help people get into a place of their own -- 
provide first month's rent or a damage deposit."

City Councilman Richard Skorman, who opposed the Montgomery center, wants to 
see more money devoted to expanding services that will prevent homelessness, 
such as transportation, affordable housing, drug and alcohol treatment and 
mental health care.>>