As winter approaches in Colorado Springs and homeless shelters reach capacity, the uncertainty of the livelihood of the homeless population heightens. The temperatures are dropping and one of Colorado Springs’ cold weather homeless shelters, the Springs Rescue Mission (SRM), is working hard to prepare for the upcoming cold months.
Last year, Colorado Springs had two cold weather shelters. The Springs Rescue Mission had 60 beds and the Salvation Army had 150 beds. The Salvation Army’s winter shelter was separate from their year round 200-bed R.J. Montgomery Center shelter. Their year-round operation is almost always at capacity for men and near capacity for women. Therefore, for many it is not a stable or long-term solution.
This winter’s shelter options are drastically different from last years options. The Salvation Army’s winter shelter closed indefinitely this past April and the community had to remodel in order to create enough space. The Springs Rescue Mission led the reorganization by renovating their winter shelter over the summer and opening this past month.
Stu Davis, Community Relations Director, called the renovation “our largest winter preparation and a significant growth in the shelter, allowing many more people than we could accommodate last year.” The new shelter, which opened Nov. 18, is a low-barrier shelter with 168 beds and floor space for 32 mattresses. A low-barrier approach means they admit people on terms of their behavior rather than sobriety or treatment condition. Additionally, they renovated another building on campus for women with 52 beds; bringing their total up to 252 beds to last year’s 60.
Although the Salvation Army will no longer have a separate winter shelter, they will be taking a small amount of families. Paul, a Salvation Army employee, said, “As far as cold weather goes we will leave it up to the Springs Rescue Mission and only take a few families because they can’t take children with their low-barrier policy.”
Paul highlighted the space for families; however, the Springs Rescue women’s shelter and IHM will be additional options for families. IHM, or Family Promise, is another large scale homeless operation that does not have their own facility, but works with churches, mosques, and synagogues to create space for temporarily homeless families or families in transition.
The Springs Rescue’s shelter has not yet reached full capacity, but they anticipate it will as the cold weather sets in. Davis said, “We had around 100 to 120 individuals every night last year and last night [November 30, 2016] we had 195 individuals.” Although the Springs Rescue Mission has created great expansion this season, they will likely still reach full capacity and have to turn people away this winter.
Davis urged students to contribute this season and said, “An average Starbucks drink is 5-6 bucks and if you’re willing to give up one drink a month, that 5 or 6 dollars could feed one person for a week.” If one wants to give more than a financial contribution, Davis encouraged students to volunteer and donate. The Springs Rescue Mission serves dinner every night to around 250-300 people per evening, and always needs more people to help serve the meal and organize their donations.
Another great way to get involved is to donate winter clothes, canned goods, or hygiene packs. Davis said, “There are many significant ways Colorado College students can get involved and we love any help we can get from young activists. A little bit could go a long way.”