HOMELESS CAMP SPRINGS RESCUE MISSION
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Homeless people have increasingly sought out the newest shelter in Colorado Springs. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

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The Springs Rescue Mission's burgeoning campus is growing amid a rise in homelessness that has routinely strained its shelter and seen homeless camps spring up across the city.

The Colorado Springs nonprofit purchased the adjacent Mountain States Pipe & Supply building and its 3-acre lot from JNC Enterprises, said Terry Anderson, the nonprofit's chief operating officer.

The move expands Springs Rescue Mission's footprint to about 12 acres, including all the land west of its location to the Pikes Peak Greenway Trail and Sierra Madre Street. The $1.2 million deal also included Mountain States' 19,000-square-foot warehouse.

"The purpose ... was to create opportunity for future expansion," Anderson said, adding that "it really is a longer-term strategy."

Some possible uses could include additional shelter space, he said, or perhaps an expansion of its social enterprises. Those initiatives generate jobs for people receiving help at the nonprofit's campus, such as through Mission Catering.

But no decisions are imminent, Anderson said.

First, the nonprofit must complete two massive projects already planned for the campus.

Construction of a kitchen, 200-person dining hall and a welcome center is on hold while the nonprofit works to raise an extra $2.5 million to $3 million.

The projects are "desperately" needed for the nonprofit to adequately serve the city's rising homeless population, Anderson said.

Its current dining hall only has room for 60 people, forcing the nonprofit to serve meals in shifts. The completed campus also will have a single entry, making it safer, Anderson said.

"We went from sheltering 60 to 300, but we have not changed our dining footprint, and we have not changed the way we assess and in-process people on the campus," Anderson said. "We're actually suffering right now in a half-completed expansion."

The nonprofit also plans to break ground in late January or early February on a 65-unit apartment complex called Greenway Flats, which will cater to people currently experiencing homelessness.

That $14 million project is separate from the dining hall and welcome center projects, in that it's financed primarily through low-income tax credits, not private donations.

The apartments are being created with the help of Nor'wood Development Group, and Anderson expects the first tenants to move in by Dec. 31.

The Springs Rescue Mission had an informal agreement with the owners to purchase the Mountain States building and surrounding land within the next five years, said Paul Carroll, Mountain States' CEO.

But he asked last year to hasten the deal amid concerns about rising homeless activity in the area.

Increasingly, people have slept on the property, and Carroll and his employees often found needles and human waste. Theft also occurred "from time to time."

Despite those challenges, Carroll praised the Springs Rescue Mission's work.

"The staff are incredible, their goals are amazing, their success is amazing - they're great people," Carroll said. "What they're trying to accomplish - trying to give people a second chance, a third chance or a fourth chance - that's great. People need a chance in life."

The deal was completed in November between the nonprofit and JNC Enterprises.

Mountain States will remain at the location through at least November on a one-year lease with the Springs Rescue Mission, Carroll said.

Mountain States will then move to near Powers Boulevard and Galley Road, he said.

Public safety net reporter