If all goes as planned, the Springs Rescue Mission will be moving dirt to vastly expand and improve its campus as soon as next month.
The Colorado Springs Community Development Division wants to use money already allocated to the city by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. If the substantial amendment is approved, $2.5 million in Community Development Block Grant funds would go toward expanding the mission’s capabilities — increasing its capacity from 60 beds in the winter to 150 beds year-round.
“We have unspent funds still in the U.S. Treasury that haven’t been allocated to a project,” said Aimee Cox, community development manager with the city of Colorado Springs. “HUD requires, if those funds aren’t allocated or if the cost exceeds a certain amount, we have to do a substantial amendment and notify the public as to how we intend to spend that money. There’s a public comment period for 30 days and then we take it to [City] Council for approval.”
The Colorado Springs City Council, not HUD, approves funding, according to Cox. If the mission receives the money, it will be halfway to its funding goal.
Planned construction also includes a day center with showers, restrooms and laundry, as well as a commercial kitchen, expanded animal-care facilities and a welcome center.
Total cost is estimated at $13.8 million, and Colorado Springs-based Nunn Construction has been selected as the developer for the project.
Stu Davis, community relations director with the Springs Rescue Mission, said the effort to acquire funds is a result of growing collaboration among Cox, the city and the nonprofit.
“She’s been a major advocate for the homeless and those who are underprivileged in the community,” Davis said. “And the city sees this is not just about putting meals in bellies and roofs over heads. It’s starting to build programs that allow for long-term development — what we call pathways out of poverty.”
Meeting all needs
“This is the most critical need in our community,” Cox said of a facility that provides a continuum of services for the homeless.
The Rescue Mission plans to offer expanded services with few barriers to entry, including substance abuse or pets.
The Salvation Army currently operates an inclusive warming shelter on South Weber Street, but is in the second year of a two-year commitment.
“That will go away, for sure,” Davis said. “And the city is looking at other options for the community to provide more emergency shelter beds because it is going away.”
The RJ Montgomery New Hope Center on South Sierra Madre Street also provides shelter, but is intended for families, Davis said, and it enforces restrictions that prevent some people from using the services.
A continuum of services is not available in one single location in the city, Davis said. People looking for a meal, a bath and a job may have to walk five miles to accomplish everything. In addition to laundry and shower facilities, the new center will incorporate case managers for substance abuse and job counseling, and will house the Rescue Mission’s partner agencies.
Additionally, the nonprofit plans to construct a commercial kitchen that will feed not only people using the shelter, but also bolster the capabilities of Mission Catering, one of the organization’s revenue-generating arms. The existing kitchen prepares 120,000 meals annually for the public, Davis said, and an additional 150,000 meals through its catering operations. The capacity to feed the hungry will nearly double after the kitchen is finished. Total output could triple.
Davis said community support and existing service infrastructure might be the catalyst the city needed to pursue the amendment.
“Everybody in the city recognized [homelessness] as an issue,” he said. “From the community to city officials, they’ve seen a need to address it holistically. Eighty percent of our support comes from individual donors in the community. We have large buy-in from community members, and I think that made us a viable option for [financial] support.”
Nowhere to go
When the city launched an initiative to end homelessness in 2014, Cox said “this is the type of project we were looking for — to meet those very basic needs experienced in the homeless community.”
While homelessness is a problem across the city, the mission’s location south of the downtown corridor should have an effect on the city’s center.
“I believe this will get more people off the street,” she said. “We’ve had a very visible homeless population because they don’t have anywhere else to go. But this isn’t just about downtown in particular. We have to get people off the street, period. We can’t do that without more low-barrier [inclusive] shelter beds.”
Cox said a conversation with Lloyd Pendleton, director of Utah’s state-operated homeless task force, helped provide perspective regarding the mission’s expansion.
“He said the best way to end homelessness is to offer immediate housing opportunities,” Cox said. “We’ve done outreach in the community. There are already organizations that go downtown and meet with those on the street or in camps, but they can’t offer them a place off the street. We know this population — who they are and what they need. But until we can say they have a place to go right now, a safe place to take a shower or eat a meal or get services — until we can offer that, [outreach] just won’t be effective.”
The public is invited to review and provide comment on the proposed changes to the block grants through March 22.
The city will host a public meeting Tuesday, March 15, to discuss the proposed actions to approve the changes to the city’s 2014 Action Plan which would facilitate investment in shelter beds and a day center for Colorado Springs. Additionally, City Council will conduct a public hearing April 12.
Shelter — 10,000 square feet
Day Center — 10,000 square feet
Social Enterprise/Facilities — 6,000 square feet
Outdoor Courtyard — 10,000 square feet
Shelter, $2.6 million — property purchase/construction
Day Center, $3 million — property purchase/construction
Social Enterprise/Facilities, $1.5 million — construction
Kitchen/Culinary Arts/Catering — 11,000 square feet
Welcome Center — 4,000 square feet
Kitchen/Welcome Center, $6.7 million (estimate) — property purchase/construction
The proposed changes to the HUD block grants will be available online through March 22 at coloradosprings.gov/sites/default/files/community_development/pages/2014_substantial_amendment_w_attachments.pdf
Source: Springs Rescue Mission