On Jan. 4, the Springs Rescue Mission’s 60-bed overnight warming shelter on the south end of downtown was full.
“We had a gentleman show up, he was No. 4 on the wait list,” said Stu Davis, community relations director at the Springs Rescue Mission.
Four days later, the same man was found dead from weather exposure in a downtown parking garage.
“I don’t want to see that happen again,” Davis said. “We have to do better.”
The Springs Rescue Mission broke ground this summer on the first of a $13.8 million two-part expansion project on its campus off West Las Vegas Street. Part of the funding will be used to finance property acquisitions that expanded the existing campus to nine acres.
The nonprofit is on track to open its new 150-bed warming shelter Nov. 1 and an 11,000-square-foot day center this year, said Springs Rescue Mission President and CEO Larry Yonker. The day center will provide guests with access to showers, laundry facilities and a resource center with case-management and veteran services from organizations like AspenPointe, Pikes Peak Library District, Pikes Peak Workforce Center and more.
The second phase of the project will produce a 10,500-square-foot kitchen and dining area that can host up to 200 and a 4,025-square-foot welcome center and storage space, including kennels for guests’ pets. Yonker estimated phase two would be complete the first part of 2018.
For Davis, this project is more than a bold capital campaign — its completion is crucial to the health of the region.
“This is not a Springs Rescue Mission issue or a homeless issue but a community issue,” he said. “There are a lot of community and economic issues tied into how we care for those who are less fortunate in our city.”
What will it take to get us there?
“Our greatest need right now is the get the funds,” Davis said.
As of Sept. 22, the Springs Rescue Mission reported having raised just over $9 million, with over $4 million left to go. “It’s audacious, but we’ve just got a couple laps left around the fundraising track and we would love for people to respond.” Davis said.
As the campus expands, Springs Rescue Mission will also have a greater need for volunteers.
Paul Lavigne has been volunteering at the Springs Rescue Mission since March 2014. As a military veteran with PTSD, Lavigne has found his niche investing time and energy in the facility’s guests.
“I identify with their struggles; I put myself in their position because I know that could easily be me,” Lavigne said. “There are so many crazy situations that happen in life; sometimes we all just need a little help to make it through.”
Lavigne is proud to volunteer his time at a nonprofit he said is deserving of the community’s trust.
“(Springs Rescue Mission) does so much with so little,” Lavigne said. “If you’re going to give money or your time, this is the place to do it. Not an ounce will go to waste.”
Lavigne cited opportunities like the New Life Program — an on-site 12-month residential addiction recovery program — with being part of the Springs Rescue Mission’s success in rehabilitating homeless citizens, but said it starts with offering respite to those who need it most.
“If you don’t want to have to see a person suffering in the cold on the street, then you need to make sure we have the capacity to bring these people in on a daily basis,” Lavigne said.
With each new donation and volunteer, Davis said the Springs Rescue Mission gets one step closer to accomplishing its goals.
“This project is going to be built not by an organization or corporation, but by the community,” he said. “We’re probably 10 years behind where we need to be when we compare ourselves to other communities our size, in terms of the kinds of services available. The more we catch up and try to provide a full spectrum of services, the more friendly our climate becomes for business and tourism, the more we’ll see ourselves becoming the kind of community we all want to see Colorado Springs become.”