Bob Holmes, executive director of the homeless umbrella agency Homeward Pikes Peak, has announced plans to close the Homeless Outreach Program at the Aztec Motel on Nov. 15.
The 24-unit hotel was first devised as a shelter when the city was struggling with hundreds of homeless tent campers in 2009 and 2010. Holmes says the shelter reached out to 610 campers, and 485 never went back to the streets. In more recent years, the Aztec began focusing more on women with children; Holmes says he was dismayed by how many of those women failed drug tests and had to be kicked out of the program.
"The heartbreaking thing is that we'd dismiss kids with them," he says. "We would call [the Department of Human Services], but DHS is overworked and it took them a while to get to answering these calls, and usually the people were gone. So what we saw is they were just perpetuating second and third generations of homelessness."
In hopes of doing something about the problem, Holmes is first asking the landlord of the Aztec to make needed repairs to the East Platte Avenue building. He then plans to reopen it in 2014 as a comprehensive drug treatment program that would serve around 20 women, who would be able to live with their kids as they work toward recovery. Holmes does not have funding for the program yet.
Meanwhile, Teresa McLaughlin, who with her husband Karl has run the Aztec and will lose her job with the change, said last week that she was still struggling to make arrangements for 55 people who've called the Aztec home, including six single men, 10 single women, and a single dad with two daughters. That's despite the fact that Colorado Springs now has two full-time winter shelters: the Salvation Army's R.J. Montgomery New Hope Center, and the Springs Rescue Mission Winter Shelter, which recently announced that it would open to adults every night through April 15.