Monday, May 10, 2010

Homeless bike service gets a hand

Posted By on Mon, May 10, 2010 at 12:05 PM

Here's an encouraging development for all those locals working to raise money for the Julie Penrose and Uncle Wilber fountains, as well as community efforts not related to cascading water: One grassroots fundraising campaign recently hit its goal.

The Bike Clinic, Peter Sprunger-Froese's service that outfits homeless people with bikes — allowing them to go to job interviews, soup kitchens and the like — apparently is stronger than it ever has been, thanks to a handful of local charities.

Mechanic Brian Gravestock, at the west sides The Bike Clinic Too.
  • Rob Kelley
  • Mechanic Brian Gravestock, at the west side's The Bike Clinic Too.

Here's the full release:

COLORADO SPRINGS — Nearly one year ago, a lifelong advocate for the poor issued a plea for help.
Peter Sprunger-Froese’s service that provides free refurbished bicycles to the homeless so they can get to job interviews, food outlets and around town, was drowning in requests.
Nearly 75 people were waiting for two-wheeled transportation from The Bike Clinic, as the bad economy had pushed more people out of their homes and onto the streets. Even more homeless people needed their bikes fixed.
The community responded with open hearts.
A $5,000 grant from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development and Catholic Charities of Colorado Springs, along with several thousands of dollars donated by individuals, has enabled the service to expand and open a second location.
Seed money is paying for a part-time mechanic, Brian Gravestock, to build new bikes out of discarded frames and parts.
Longtime homeless supporter Steve Handen, who started the city’s first soup kitchen, stepped forward and donated work space on the city’s west side for The Bike Clinic Too, which opened in April.
The Pikes Peak Community Foundation, the fiscal sponsor of more than 300 nonprofits in the region, took the effort under its wing and is providing administrative support. The Mesa House, a halfway house, has donated a cell phone.
Training for volunteers to repair bikes and shuttle donated parts is underway.
“Our wish is that no one gets turned away,” said Sprunger-Froese, who started the Bike Clinic in 1993 and continues to donate his time to the service.
Recent city and county bans on camping on public lands may have removed the majority of the homeless from the public eye but haven’t decreased their need for reliable transportation, Sprunger-Froese said.
As many as 12 requests for bicycles or repairs come in to Sprunger-Froese’s small shop in an industrial unit under the Colorado Avenue bridge every day, many sent on referral from social service agencies. Criterium Bike Shop has paid the rent on the space since it opened.
About 14 bicycles made from used parts leave the shop a week, and twice as many repaired bikes. But the extra help from Gravestock and a cadre of volunteers is increasing the output and helping make a dent in the growing need. Gravestock is averaging four bikes from scratch and up to six repaired bikes each week.
Along with supplying a new set of wheels, Sprunger-Froese and Gravestock befriend the homeless clients, many of whom lack regular social support systems.
“That’s such an important part of this work because many of the people who come to us are friendless and need someone to be a human being to them,” Sprunger-Froese said.
Gravestock, a bike mechanic for 30 years who also works at Old Town Bike Shop, is training some homeless in the profession of bicycle mechanics to increase their employability.
“Homeless people often are pretty downtrodden and have had enough disappointments to take away their hope. A bike can become a good friend and help someone have a better life and give them hope,” he said.
Financial donations to The Bike Clinic Too may be made through the Pikes Peak Community Foundation, 389-1251.

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