The 2015 Give! Campaign features 88 area nonprofits. To learn more, volunteer or donate, visit indygive.com before midnight on Dec. 31.
On Jan. 25, volunteers spread out in El Paso County and counted 1,073 people who were either sleeping outside, in their cars, in shelters or in a transitional housing program. The annual Point in Time Survey sponsored by the Pikes Peak United Way is not completely accurate, but provides a snapshot of area homelessness.
For nearly two decades the Springs Rescue Mission has offered hundreds of thousands of meals and tens of thousands of nights of shelter to the homeless and people in poverty in Colorado Springs. But food and shelter, while important, are not all the nonprofit brings to its neighbors, as they call the people who need their services.
“Our main message is to build hope. That’s what we do,” said Tim Gore, community relations director for the Mission. “We provide opportunities for people of all ages to help us do that, to see what it is like to be around people who they may have been scared of in the past. I want them to have a chance to give hope to other people.”
Over the years the Mission has grown from two people handing out sandwiches in local parks to hundreds of volunteers working to provide food, lodging, job training, addiction rehabilitation counseling and other resources.
Gore said he wants people to know the organization is more than just “that kitchen.” While providing two breakfasts, two lunches and three dinners every day to a growing number of hungry neighbors is certainly important, it is only a portion of what takes place at its downtown campus.
“Our main message is to build hope. That’s what we do.”
– Tim Gore
During the winter months, the shelter provides 60 warm beds. Only a few years ago it started out as a warming shelter with about a dozen beds. Gore said they just couldn’t watch people sleep in the cold. The Mission is working with the city of Colorado Springs to expand on land it owns on the west side of its campus to meet the growing needs of its neighbors. It recently set up a strategic plan for issues that come up around homelessness and poverty.
Along with food and shelter, the Springs Rescue Mission has supportive family services to give food, clothing, housing and hygiene items to local people who are in poverty. In 2014 those items totaled about $4 million. About 100 families seek assistance in this area each week, Gore said.
They also have a Resource Advocate Program providing thousands of one-on-one case management sessions, with nearly 300 of those coming from neighbors using the winter shelter. The RAP reaches out to the chronically homeless who are without a home for 12 months or four times during a year. This group often has mental health issues which make a tough situation tougher.
“It is tough for them to do the paper work they need to do to get resources, “Gore said. “We can do all that for them at the Mission.” Providing such help establishes relationships that connect individuals to avenues that will take them on the pathway out of addiction, poverty and homelessness.
Add in the New Life program, a residential addiction rehabilitation program, family mentoring and the Mission Inn sober living housing program and it is obvious the Mission is much more than a kitchen.
Volunteers are critical in meeting all the outreach efforts offered by the Mission. Gore said there is a core of about 50 volunteers who put in 20 or more hours a week, and about 2,000 periodic volunteers from church groups. The Mission needs help with advocacy for big issues and assistance in the warehouse on weekends. For people interested in volunteering, a volunteer coordinator will assist in finding the right place for the right set of skills.
The Mission is always taking donations as well. Socks and hygiene items are always in high demand. Around the holidays, food to make a traditional holiday dinner are desired. Plenty of turkeys are donated, but the fixings to go with it are most welcome.
Most Mission donors, roughly 75 percent of them, are individuals. Gore said the average donation is $22.50 per month. Non-cash donations of food, clothing and other items, all given away at no charge, help meet its purpose and connect with people who are homeless, addicted to drugs or in poverty.
“We would like everyone to know we are about relationships with our neighbors,” Gore said. “It’s not about clients and supporters.”
To find the Rescue Mission online go to springsrescuemission.org.