Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Aztec Motel to close, reopen as women's drug treatment center

By Jakob Rodgers Updated: October 31, 2013 at 8:43 pm 0

A motel that serves as housing to dozens of people - most of them families - will close this month to make way for a residential center to serve mothers battling substance abuse.

But exactly how the new program, estimated to cost $300,000 annually, will be funded remains to be seen.

On Nov. 15, Homeward Pikes Peak will close the Aztec Motel, 1921 E. Platte Ave., ending a hallmark initiative of city's push to address homeless camps during the Great Recession in 2009.

Since opening in 2010, the program has offered housing to 2,350 people - 77 percent of whom moved into some form of housing upon leaving, said Bob Holmes, Homeward Pikes Peak's chief executive.

On Thursday, Holmes described a replacement program built with grants and donations that have yet to be awarded.

Holmes envisioned the motel reopening in January as a home for mothers currently, or recently enrolled in substance abuse treatment programs.

An increasing number of single mothers sought shelter at the Aztec Motel by avoiding drugs just long enough to pass a urine test - only to resume using drugs and alcohol after moving in, Holmes said.

"We'd have to dismiss them, and the heartbreaking thing is we'd dismiss the kids with them," Holmes said. "What we saw was they were just perpetuating second and third generations of homelessness."

"We began to think that there's really no program in this area for women who want to quit using drugs and alcohol but ... simultaneously want to keep their kids with them," he added.

Women were able to access a Homeward Pikes Peak clinical program located about five blocks from the motel, helping to mitigate the number of dismissals, he said.

That program will likely help drive treatment for the new center, which Holmes envisioned housing slightly more than 20 mothers and their children. The center also would include licensed counselors, and Holmes plans to partner with other Colorado Springs nonprofits on the venture.

A "bare-bones" budget for the center would run $300,000 annually, Holmes said, none of which has been secured. No other nonprofits have signed on to the venture, and the motel must first be renovated extensively.

He plans to rely on Homeward Pikes Peak's traditionally stout record keeping to secure grants.

"What I have is a track record of foundations that have given certain amounts" in the past, Holmes said.

Motel residents have been "distraught" at the closure, said Teresa McLaughlin, who manages the motel with her husband, Karl McLaughlin.

Three families and a single person moved into new housing this week, and Karl McLaughlin expects to move 12 more people into units across town next week.

Fifty-five people at the motel remain without housing past Nov. 15, Karl McLaughlin said. Holmes said all residents would be placed with other homeless providers.

The lack of permanent funding in place for the next program worries Karl McLaughlin - especially as winter approaches.

"That tears us up," McLaughlin said.

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