Plan for Colorado Springs homeless-services campus gets warm welcome from nonprofits

May 8, 2013 Updated: May 8, 2013 at 12:20 pm

Executives with the primary nonprofits that serve the homeless in Colorado Springs gave a mostly warm reception to a proposal by Mayor Steve Bach and his wife, Suzi, to create a campus that would provide emergency housing and a multi-service day center to help people get off the streets.

The Bachs unveiled the plan before about 70 nonprofit leaders, business people and community members Tuesday night at the Hillside Community Center, and while details such as cost or a location haven't been determined, the audience seemed pleased that the mayor wants the city to do more to help the homeless.

'If this is about going beyond the status quo and getting something done - if that's the purpose behind it - I'm all in, ' said Greg Morris, who runs Peak Vista Community Health Centers' Homeless Health Center and has started a nonprofit to care for homeless people being discharged from hospitals.

Carolyn McDole, executive director at Ecumenical Social Ministries, was particularly enthusiastic about the idea of a day center, where homeless people could get off the streets in bad weather and take advantage of a range of proposed services to become self-sufficient. For years, the de facto day center has been Penrose Library downtown, and the need for a dedicated place has been high on McDole's wish list.

'This, I think, is wonderful, ' she said. 'It's needed, and it has to happen. '

But there were plenty of questions from the audience: Who would run the campus? How big would it be? Could it be used to prevent homelessness? Will there be accountability?

Bach said everything is on the table. Maybe the project starts with the day center. Maybe housing would have to be limited at first to families.

'I'm not going to leave office with the same situation we have, ' Bach said.

One element that's not likely to change is the inclusion of the existing nonprofits in the project. The Bachs propose having an independent agency manage a campus, with nonprofits providing on-site services in addition to the work they do at their own facilities.

'We certainly believe in the partner agency approach, ' said Mark Rohlena, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of Central Colorado. 'I think the concept is very much on target. '

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