New Year’s is a time to reflect on changes in individual and collective life.
Collectively, we need to wake up and understand that we no longer live in the small town that many of us remember with nostalgia. We’re a big city now, with a population in the metro area approaching 800,000. But as I like to point out, we live in a community that has escaped the serious problems affecting other cities. We’ve been lucky. This is true even with the long-lived pandemic.
Of course, we’re not entirely immune from challenges and if we’re not proactive about it we will see big city problems invade our little corner of the Rocky Mountain paradise in a really big way. This has started to happen.
We still don’t have the highways we need to handle the huge increase in traffic. If we keep on adding subdivision after subdivision on the east and north of the city without taxing ourselves to build the roads, the traffic thing will truly become a nightmare, seriously affecting our quality of life. 2021 saw the continued lack of affordable housing and the perennial absence of the political will to address this serious issue. We saw more homeless people, with many unhoused youths counted in that unfortunate population.
There was a tragic number of pedestrian deaths on city streets, and a worrying increase in the homicide rate. And so on. But there are bright spots.
One such bright spot is the youth program known as Dale House. I was fortunate to witness the genesis of this innovative program, in one of the old Victorians which grace the neighborhood north of downtown.
In 1970, fresh out of the Army and back from Vietnam, I was working in a school dropout prevention program, looking to compensate for the death and destruction I had seen by doing something positive in society.
Dale House was a lesson for me, and a valuable resource for the high school students I was working with. It was a place where troubled kids could go for a fresh start. More than 50-years later, it still is.
Dale House was founded by clergy and lay people whose inspiration was the Gospel. The evolution of the program exemplifies some of the best qualities of religious leadership for which Colorado Springs is justly famous. The mission of Dale House is to provide a residential community where young people overcome obstacles and prepare for independent living. Teenagers and young adults are trained in relational ministry and Christian leadership, based on the example of Jesus and the humility described in Second Philippians.
In its 50 years, Dale House has helped to transform the lives of over 5,000 youths, along with the growth and development of 400 staff members. As explained by its dedicated leaders, Dale House is a community of adults and youth seeking healing for the pain that life inflicts, learning conflict resolution skills, and the ability to surmount future problems. It is a community whose purpose is to send young adults into the world who are confident and equipped with the skills for productive lives.
The staff includes licensed professional counselors who conduct therapeutic interventions with the residents and assist in program development.
It goes without saying that most current models, which seek to prevent homelessness, drug and alcohol addiction and other anti-social behavior, are not doing the job. But here is one that is. Dale House, supported by a combination of private donors, foundations, churches, and some government grants, is successfully tackling some of society’s most difficult problems. Dale House deserves a well-earned vote of thanks from Colorado Springs, and the strong financial support to accomplish its vital mission.
Joe Barrera, PH.D., is the former director of the Ethnic Studies Program at UCCS. He teaches U.S. Military History and Mexico/U.S. Border Studies. He is a combat veteran of the Vietnam War.