"Campus of Caring" NIMBY controversy

Wed, 26 May 1999 10:20:16 EDT

This appeared in the local Colorado Springs daily paper, May26, 1999. Another 
aspect not covered in this article is that the proposed homeless complex is 
directly across the the street from a multiblock redevelopement project that 
is trying to mimic a European village. One has to wonder what THEIR reaction 
will be to this "homeless magnet" next to the upscale developement.  Another 
aspect not mentioned, and sure to come up, is that for all the proposed 
millions to be spent, few if any new services are going to be added to the 
local "get-people-off-the-street effort. It is simply a consolidation of 
existing agency services, in far nicer quarters.
Matt Parkhouse, RN, Colorado Springs,CO

<<<                    Hillside wary of homeless
                      By Eric Gorski / The Gazette
            Story editor Valerie Wigglesworth; headline by Gary Houy

An effort to create a major new center to offer services for the homeless in 
Colorado Springs has at once expanded and narrowed: The project now includes 
a new American Red Cross shelter as a centerpiece, and the agency is under 
contract to buy a site on the edge of the Hillside neighborhood.

Several social-service agencies have worked for more than a year and a half 
to bring the project to fruition.

Finding a workable site and involving one of the nation’s largest nonprofit 
groups represent significant progress.

The advances, however, also pose a difficult, albeit expected, set of 
problems. Whenever a site for a homeless shelter is proposed — no matter 
where it is — neighbors usually are up in arms.

In this case, the neighborhood at stake is one that’s labored hard to pull 
itself out of a long period of decline and gained national recognition for 
its success.

To many Hillside residents, a one-stop shopping center for the homeless is an 
asset to the city but could destabilize their redeveloping neighborhood, 
Hillside Neighborhood Association officials said.

The discussion about the site has only begun: Hearings before the city 
Planning Commission are still to come, and neither project organizers nor 
neighborhood leaders say they’re finished listening to each other.

The property under contract is the former Sutherland Lumber site now owned by 
artist Michael Garman at the southeast corner of South Wahsatch Avenue and 
Costilla Street. Catholic Community Services secured an option to purchase 
the land. The agency runs the Marian House soup kitchen and was then the 
project’s leader.

The Red Cross took over after sensing a chance to move out of a former 
warehouse on Sierra Madre Street that it wants to vacate despite $350,000 in 
renovations there during the past four years, said Debbie Mitguard, shelter 

There are no plans to increase the number of beds from the existing 260, 
Mitguard said. She said the new space would allow for better separation of 
single men and women, families and young couples, as well as offer a nicer 

“The kind of facility we provide reflects the value we put on them as human 
beings,” Mitguard said. “We’d like to get away from warehousing people and 
provide a place where people feel some dignity and privacy.”

The rest of the homeless center concept hasn’t changed: It still would 
include the soup kitchen moved from Marian House, as well as meals, medical 
care, mental health counseling, job and legal services, voluntary spiritual 
counseling, transportation and personal services such as laundry, showers and 
storage space.

Parry Thomas of the urban design and planning firm Thomas and Thomas in 
Colorado Springs said the Garman property would be greatly upgraded. 
Possibilities include adding trees, open space and parking and demolishing 
some building additions while saving the original building facing Wahsatch 

The developers have yet to apply for a conditional use permit, which would 
need Planning Commission approval.

David Morikawa, executive director of the local Red Cross chapter, said the 
purchase option expires at the end of June, and his agency is working to 
extend it. He would not disclose the price being discussed.

Perhaps just as crucial as clearing bureaucratic hurdles will be working with 
the Hillside neighborhood.

Nearly a year ago, Steve Ferguson, then president of the neighborhood 
association, supported the Garman site. He reasoned that welcoming the center 
is “the social contract we have with the community.”

Ferguson since has been voted out of office, and the association approved a 
statement opposing the project after meeting with project organizers this 

The group recognizes the need for homeless services, said Jason Gaulden, the 
association’s interim director.

But he said the association thinks it was not included in discussions until 
the site was selected. It’s also concerned about deteriorating property 
values, unanswered questions about the project and the proposed center’s 
proximity to Helen Hunt Elementary and an Urban League child development 

“We reject the notion that it’s OK to take problems from northwest downtown 
to southeast of downtown and put it in Hillside,” he said. “We’re not a 
dumping ground.”

He also addressed a concern specific to his neighborhood: “We’ve been there, 
we’ve been at rock bottom as a neighborhood, and we’ve worked really hard not 
only to dispel the negative elements but the stereotypes of the 
neighborhood,” he said.

However, Gaulden said the association was not closed to being convinced that 
the center could work there.

City Councilman Leon Young said he doesn’t think Hillside is stable enough 
yet to take in the center.

“Hillside has been an area that’s always had to fight to come back and get 
rejuvenated, and now that you begin to do that, why put some of your problem 
people in there?” he asked.

Mitguard said center organizers wanted to involve the neighborhood earlier 
but needed to wait until the site and the project came into focus.

She said organizers recognize what Hillside has gone through and will attempt 
to alleviate neighbors’ concerns.

“We’re very sensitive to their fears and concerns, but we’re hoping to work 
together,” Mitguard said. “They set a great example of how to really pull 
together and make a difference in their community. I think there’s probably a 
lot of lessons we can learn from them.”

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