Colorado Springs police officers checked on remote homeless camps Thursday, a day after a vicious blizzard tore through the Pikes Peak region, sending many homeless people scrambling for warmth and reportedly leaving some unable to reach the city’s shelters.
Officers with the police department’s Homeless Outreach Team turned their attention back to the city’s homeless community after being reassigned Wednesday afternoon to help more than 1,000 stranded motorists across the city, said Sgt. Curt Hasling, who oversees the team.
The Springs Rescue Mission had 404 people stay overnight Wednesday at its campus, 5 W. Las Vegas St., which can accommodate up to 450 people in its shelters, said Travis Williams, the nonprofit’s chief development officer. The figure included two people who are not experiencing homelessness, but who were stranded and couldn’t get home.
The Salvation Army’s R.J. Montgomery shelter filled all 120 men’s beds last night, and filled 88 of its 100 beds for women and families with children, said Karen Daugherty, who oversees the shelter.
Williams attributed the lower-than-expected turnout to the fact the storm hit earlier in the day — meaning people possibly found shelter early, or couldn’t make it to the campus once the storm intensified.
Daugherty said she received calls from people Wednesday asking for help in reaching the R.J. Montgomery shelter, 709 S. Sierra Madre St. They included one person near Woodmen Road and Academy Boulevard, and another near the Citadel Mall.
“Really, to be open but not be able to service those individuals is truly heartbreaking,” Daugherty said.
Both nonprofits were slammed Wednesday with people seeking refuge from sideways-blowing snow and hurricane-force winds. More than 300 people showed up Wednesday afternoon at the Springs Rescue Mission’s day center — a standing-room only crowd that was three times the center’s normal visitor count, Williams said.
An additional 100 people sought warmth at the R.J. Montgomery shelter. The nonprofit changed course Wednesday afternoon and allowed single men and women inside as the storm intensified. Previously, it reserved that space solely for families with children.
Even so, Williams said he was grateful the storm came now and not several years ago. The Springs Rescue Mission opened its first large shelter in 2016, and its day center in 2017. Had the storm hit prior to that, he said, many more could have been left in the cold.
“It’s a testimony to the community’s care and compassion, because it’s really the community that’s helping support the work of the rescue mission,” he said.