The Salvation Army, serving El Paso County since 1889, houses the homeless, provides affordable housing for seniors and helps with rent, food and other social services.
The agency has a big impact on Colorado Springs, which has a growing need, said Capt. Erin Kauffman, the nonprofit’s associate coordinator and corps officer. The number of homeless people in the county, including veterans and families, has reached a 10-year high, Kauffman said.
A catalog of the Salvation Army’s programs shows how much they do for the community:
• The agency maintains a licensed after-school program for 44 children.
• It provides food bags for about 100 clients a week and more during the holidays, as the need arises. It also serves senior lunches and has 100 senior apartments. If someone can’t attend meals, volunteers deliver them.
• Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, free meals are served to the community at four locations.
• With 20 apartments, the agency provides family housing for up to two years. The Salvation Army now houses 18 families. The children, who might have been in and out of homelessness, receive counseling and help with developmental plans. Each family gets financial planning assistance and advice on improving their parenting skills.
• The agency opened an intensive program for veterans Oct. 1, with 22 transitional housing units. Working closely with Mount Carmel and the Veterans Administration, the program features classes on recovery and obtaining benefits. The vets are given lunch and dinner to help them get socialization.
• Help with utility bills is given to those struggling due to a personal crisis or emergency, through COPE (Citizens Option to Provide Energy).
• In August, the Salvation Army’s back-to-school shopping event ensures that children receive toys and an outfit.
The agency has seen a major increase in demand for services, Kauffman said, possibly because of “the higher rents, or maybe just because this is the No. 1 or No. 2 city now. A lot of people are moving here, and they are just needing more help.”
The agency’s Sierra Madre Street shelter has 220 beds, including facilities for families, which is rare in our region. The need is so great, they say, that they have had to turn away families, even during the summer.
But Kauffman has many success stories. Two young girls from Puerto Rico wound up in Colorado Springs after the 2017 hurricane. They were extremely shy and withdrawn. They came to after-school sessions and now have integrated fully with the community. One donor who learned about them gave $5,000 so they could go to Disneyland.
Kauffman says that is only one example of Colorado Springs’ giving spirit. She says the Salvation Army couldn’t provide such services without the Empty Stocking Fund and the community’s generosity.
Another success story is about two young boys who were also withdrawn when they joined the Red Shield After School Program. Their mother commented on how quickly her sons became comfortable attending the program and how their reading and other academic skills improved. Their interest in the program allowed them to join the group that attended The Salvation Army-sponsored Estes Park music camp. They are still attending the after-school program.
As Kauffman says, the community coming together to help others is what the Salvation Army is all about.