Nonprofits

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Homeless deaths: the impact on friends, siblings, parents

Posted By on Wed, Feb 20, 2019 at 4:53 PM

The bus stop where Calvin Reeves was found dead on Jan. 22. - BRYAN OLLER
  • Bryan Oller
  • The bus stop where Calvin Reeves was found dead on Jan. 22.
As the Independent was going to press this week, we heard from Shawna Kemppainen, executive director of Urban Peak, which serves homeless youth.

She had something to add after our interview about the death of Calvin Reeves at a bus stop at Austin Bluffs Parkway and Academy Boulevard.

Her thoughts:
As with each of us, the death of a person who has been homeless affects many others. This person had friends, siblings, parents or children. A young person we work with at Urban Peak discovered their mother dead one morning last year. The mom was living in her car parked not far from our youth shelter, and the young person would go to the car each morning to say hello. As you might imagine, it has taken a deep toll on the youth who is processing all aspects of grief, including guilt. In another instance, a young person surviving outside was hit and killed by a drunk driver. Too old for Urban Peak’s shelter but too afraid to stay at the adult shelters, this youth traveled sidewalks and streets most of the day and night. The day before they died, our street outreach team had helped the youth arrange to get their hearing aids fixed.

Second: People surviving outside face the same illnesses as people who have a traditional roof overhead, but the rates of sickness are much higher and the threat of death greater. Imagine facing the flu or even heart disease when you cannot get enough rest, stay warm and clean, or maintain medications. The conditions of homelessness exacerbate all health challenges. Even when someone exits homelessness, the toll of street life can quickly catch up.
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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Independence Center celebrates accessible health care

Posted By on Wed, Feb 13, 2019 at 12:53 PM

Betty Jo Sjoberg, center, nominated Matthews-Vu Medical Group to receive an accessible table and lift from the Independence Center. RMA Manager Brandy James, left, and Director of Operations Paul Novotny represented Matthews-Vu at a luncheon celebrating the equipment giveaways. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Betty Jo Sjoberg, center, nominated Matthews-Vu Medical Group to receive an accessible table and lift from the Independence Center. RMA Manager Brandy James, left, and Director of Operations Paul Novotny represented Matthews-Vu at a luncheon celebrating the equipment giveaways.

It's a widespread problem: The majority of medical providers lack the proper equipment and training to give patients who use wheelchairs a complete check-up.

The Independence Center sought to change that this fall by using $75,000 from its board-run IC fund to buy accessible medical equipment for providers serving Medicaid and Medicare recipients in Southern Colorado.

Available items included the UpScale accessible exam table, which has an adjustable height and built-in scale; Hoyer-type lifts, devices used to transfer patients from wheelchair to table; and the portable loop system, a listening device that feeds audio directly into hearing aids.

Back in June, we reported that the Independence Center planned to donate accessible tables and lifts to at least seven medical clinics in El Paso County, and use the remaining money for loop systems.

The nonprofit ended up donating tables and lifts to nine medical practices, and gave portable hearing loop systems to three, CEO Patricia Yeager announced at a luncheon Feb. 8 celebrating the donations.

The providers who received the equipment were selected from a list of 23 nominees, Yeager says. Patients submitted the nominations to the Independence Center.
"To come into a setting that is already accessible says that somebody thought ahead of time and made arrangements for everyone to be cared for," says Sharon King, who nominated her doctor at Sunrise Health Care to receive a table and lift. "[My doctor] has always been wonderful to me and unflinchingly creative in making ways to care for me, but I'm really grateful to have been able to be a part of giving her something back as kind of a thank-you for the level of care and concern that she provides."

Paul Novotny, director of operations for Matthews-Vu Medical Group, said that in addition to helping patients who used wheelchairs — such as Betty Jo Sjoberg, who nominated the office — the accessible table's built-in scale had also come in handy for patients who used walkers.

"Before we had the table, they would bring the walker and they would stand on our scales," Novotny says. "And it wasn't always the safest, most accurate measurement for their weight."

The Independence Center's website now has a map of providers in the region with accessible exam tables and hearing loops.

Yeager says the nonprofit plans to focus on dental offices this year.

"We'd really like to see if we can create a few accessible dental offices," she says. "I have no idea what that looks like. So that'll be some research we'll be doing, and putting a call out for nominations."
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Friday, February 8, 2019

Backpack Challenge to raise awareness around homelessness

Posted By on Fri, Feb 8, 2019 at 9:55 AM

COURTESY OF DONNA WINTZ
  • Courtesy of Donna Wintz
In honor of International Random Acts of Kindness Week, local nonprofits are challenging Colorado Springs residents to walk a mile (or any distance, really) in their homeless neighbor's shoes.

But walking around homeless usually means hauling around more than the clothes on your back and shoes on your feet. If you don't have a car, or a safe place for your stuff, you're probably carrying all of your personal belongings with you, too.

That's the premise of the Backpack Challenge, which runs from Feb. 9 to Feb. 15. Participants are encouraged to wear a backpack for a day while they walk around Colorado Springs, then share their experience on social media, with the goal of promoting empathy and raising awareness of the challenges faced by homeless people in our community.


According to the event announcement, the idea was born when Donna Wintz, a volunteer for Westside Cares, was walking in Old Colorado City wearing a backpack. She noticed that some residents looked suspicious or disdainful as she passed.

“I think criminal activity in the city has homeowners on edge,” the announcement quotes Wintz as saying. “I understand the caution, but I don’t like my first interaction with a stranger to be negative, as if I am assumed a criminal simply because I’m wearing a backpack.”

Wintz spoke with Kristy Milligan, the CEO of nonprofit Westside Cares, about launching a campaign around the idea to coincide with International Random Acts of Kindness Week.

“There is tremendous need for caring services and housing in our community,” Milligan says in the announcement. “But the single greatest need is for a collective, community-wide commitment to seeing our neighbors in need as they actually are: our brothers and sisters.”

Other nonprofits promoting the challenge include Ecumenical Social Ministries, Urban Peak Colorado Springs, Homeward Pikes Peak, Catholic Charities of Central Colorado and Community Health Partnership.

Here's some guidelines for Backpack Challenge participants:

BACKPACK CHALLENGE
  • Backpack Challenge
Wintz, a graphic designer, created a "Try a Little Kindness" emblem in honor of the event, available on T-shirts, posters, mugs and more on RedBubble. She'll donate the proceeds to Westside Cares.

Businesses interested in obtaining the emblem for a fundraiser can contact Wintz at 970/682-0075 or donna@arttomarketdesign.com.
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Friday, January 11, 2019

Independence Center to host watch party for Disability Integration Act

Posted By on Fri, Jan 11, 2019 at 12:33 PM

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  • Shutterstock.com
People with disabilities who need longterm services are often forced to leave their homes for assisted living facilities because Medicaid won't pay for at-home care. Disability rights activists say that legislators in Congress can change that by passing the Disability Integration Act, set to be introduced in both the House and Senate on Jan. 15.

Disability rights supporters will be watching across the country — including at the Independence Center, a local nonprofit for people with disabilities.

The bill, introduced last spring in the Senate by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, and in the House by Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisconsin, would require states, local governments and insurance providers to provide community-based services for people with disabilities as an alternative to institutionalization.

States and local governments would be required to work with housing authorities to ensure sufficient quantities of affordable, accessible, integrated housing where people can receive services while remaining in the community.

The list of Senate cosponsors includes Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner. Gardner, the latest cosponsor to sign on, was the only Republican to do so as of Jan. 8.

It's possible that pressure from disability rights organization ADAPT, the legislation's main backer, led to his decision. ADAPT supporters were arrested multiple times in Gardner's offices where they were pressuring him to cosponsor the legislation, according to a statement from the organization. And in November, the statement says, ADAPT had an airplane bearing the message “GARDNER SUPPORT S910 DIA FREE OUR PEOPLE!” fly around Gardner's Washington, D.C., office building. That evening, ADAPT projected the same message "shining like a bat-signal" on the front of the building. Gardner added his name a month later.

Last legislative session, all of Colorado's House representatives also signed on as cosponsors.

Neither the House nor Senate bill made it out of committee last session, but advocates are hopeful that this year, things will be different.

“The Disability Integration Act (DIA) is the next step in building a fulfilling and sustainable world for persons with disabilities," Becca Michael, advocacy manager at the Independence Center, said in an emailed statement. "...The Independence Center is excited about this legislation, as our mission is to work with people with disabilities, their families, and the community, to create independence so all may thrive."

The Independence Center, located at 729 S. Tejon St. will host a watch party Jan. 15 from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. to livestream the bill's introduction and discussion. The event is open to the public, and snacks will be provided.

"The Independence Center is hosting this watch party, not only because it is important for our consumers and employees, but because it is gaining momentum, and we want to make sure it makes it over the finish line," Michael said. "For now, we want to raise awareness of the legislation, and celebrate the effort!”

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Friday, January 4, 2019

Man who died days after finally getting off the streets is remembered

Posted By on Fri, Jan 4, 2019 at 5:18 PM

Paul Gabrielson in his new apartment. - COURTESY OF RICHARD JOHNSON
  • Courtesy of Richard Johnson
  • Paul Gabrielson in his new apartment.

The day Paul Gabrielson moved into his own apartment, the first address to his name in years, he was glowing.

Within a few hours, the 50-year-old had put on music and decorated the space with a few spare belongings, recalls Richard Johnson, a relative who helped Gabrielson move.

"He was like a little kid," Johnson says. "He was so excited about this brand new home, his new start on life."

But two days after Gabrielson — who had been chronically homeless since at least 2013, couchsurfing and frequenting the Springs Rescue Mission when he wasn't camping outside — gained the keys to his own apartment, tragedy struck.

While the coroner's report isn't finalized, word is that an undiagnosed condition, possibly related to Gabrielson's alcoholism, took his life.

Gabrielson was a frequent patron at Westside Cares, a nonprofit that provides food and services for people experiencing homelessness. At a Dec. 20 memorial service for Gabrielson, the nonprofit's building was packed with those who knew and loved him: family members, friends who had lived with him on the streets, volunteers who'd felt appreciated by his kindness, and others who knew him in passing but felt the impact of his loving personality.

"We’ve had a lot of memorial services, but none as big as this," one volunteer remarked to Gabrielson's sister in passing.

It's not surprising, given the impression Gabrielson clearly left on the homeless outreach community. He received services, but gave what he could himself, too — like the Broncos cap he gave to Pastor Eric Sandras, who led the memorial service, and a beanie sported by Kristy Milligan, CEO of Westside Cares, as she delivered opening remarks. Gabrielson often helped serve meals at Sandras' The Sanctuary Church, Sandras says. And those he met on the streets recalled his habit of lending a helping hand when he could.

"Paul had a really big heart and he inspired a lot of people, whether to become Christian or be thankful for what you have," says Janeice Queen, Gabrielson's sister. "... He didn’t have a lot, but he did have a big heart, and we’re going to miss him."


At Westside Cares, Gabrielson took the VI-SPDAT housing assessment, which looks at a variety of factors to determine level of vulnerability and potential for placement in permanent supportive housing. After a long process involving heaps of paperwork and doctor's appointments, he eventually was selected for an opening in one of Homeward Pikes Peak's permanent supportive housing units — like "striking gold in this town," says Deb Mitguard, Westside Cares' director of volunteer engagement.

"We saw him really working hard this last year to create a different kind of life for himself," Mitguard says, "and of course it took him making up his mind about that, but it also took several people walking beside him and helping him just kind of jump through all of the hoops that had to be jumped through to get from here to there."

Gabrielson was enrolled at Pikes Peak Community College from 2010 to 2014, according to a PPCC spokesperson, but never got a degree. Johnson says he had planned to complete the remaining courses needed for an associate's degree and transfer the credits to Colorado State University at Pueblo in the summer or fall.

COURTESY OF WESTSIDE CARES
  • Courtesy of Westside Cares
He loved dancing and martial arts, Queen says, and had a job interview scheduled the last time she spoke with him.

"I don’t understand why it takes some people and doesn’t take others, the alcohol," she says. 


Through everything — decades of alcoholism, the deaths of two of his friends last year, and a recent beating that landed him in the hospital — friends, family and acquaintances agree that Gabrielson put others before himself, sometimes to his own detriment. And contrary to one stereotype of chronically homeless people, it was clear he didn't choose the lifestyle he led. That much is evidenced by his 2017 interview with Milligan for a video series promoting Westside Cares.

"I’m a wuss on the streets. I hate the cold," Gabrielson says. "I don’t want to be out there for anything. I just sustained some medical issues and a [traumatic brain injury] and I just had some problems that unfortunately I found myself on the streets, and you know, it can happen to anybody... Sometimes I get in dire straits. I just, I’ve gone through this before and I’ve learned how to survive and take care of myself and what have you, but not everybody knows how to do that. And I’m just trying to do my part to do whatever I can to help anybody that needs the help utilize the resources that are available."

Johnson hopes Gabrielson's journey out of homelessness will inspire other patrons of Westside Cares, even if it did end in tragedy.

"Folks working here can say, 'Remember Paul? How he made changes in his life? There's hope.'"

Francie Crary, a volunteer who helped Gabrielson with his housing assessment, says she remembers a visible change in his appearance the last time she saw him at Westside Cares. It was a few days before he would receive the keys to his apartment.

"He was floating," Crary says. "I mean, he was so full of light anyway, but he was floating. He was absolutely floating."

Milligan takes comfort in one outtake from the interview that she still recalls.

"
I asked him what gave him hope, and he said God gave him hope," Milligan says. "Which makes me feel better about losing him... He believed that he was wrapped up in God’s arms, and that’s what I would wish for someone at their last moment."

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Saturday, December 29, 2018

Give! to local charities through Dec. 31

Posted By on Sat, Dec 29, 2018 at 6:00 AM

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The Indy Give! campaign is in its 10th year and has a lofty goal: raising $1.8 million for 93 local organizations that make the Pikes Peak Region a great place to live.

We know, you've been a little busy. It's easy to get caught up in the holiday rush.  But why not take a few minutes and use our easy platform to give back to your community. Here's the cool part: Give! allows to you donate to multiple organizations at once, ALL your money goes to the charities of your choice, and since many charities have matching grants, your dollars go even further.
Here's a message from  Give! Executive Director Barb Van Hoy:

More Donations Needed to Reach 2018 Give! Campaign Goal
93 local organizations featured in community-wide giving effort ending midnight Dec. 31st

COLORADO SPRINGS, COLORADO — With just four days left in 2018, the Give! Campaign is appealing to the Pikes Peak region with their “Live Here Give Here” message to support 93 worthy nonprofits. Last year Give! raised $1.5 million for local nonprofits. This year’s ambitious goal is $1.8 million. We’re asking our community to step up and help us change lives by supporting these important causes

In its 10th year, Give! is raising awareness and funds for a diverse variety of local causes, from children and families, to the arts, animals, the great outdoors, veterans and more.

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It’s really easy to give, and we make it fun, too. Just go to indygive.com, where you’ll likely find some of your favorite nonprofits, as well as new ones you didn’t know were here. Many nonprofits have matching challenge grants that will double your donation. You can choose how much and to which groups you want to donate, and check out each group’s progress on the leaderboards. Donors help nonprofits compete for cash prizes and receive thank-you rewards from local businesses including Bristol Brewing Company, The Mining Exchange, La’au’s Taco Shop, Axe and the Oak, and many others. This year’s campaign kicked off on November 1 and ends at midnight December 31, 2018.

Give! is a year-end philanthropic initiative created to encourage everyone in the Pikes Peak Region to give back and get involved with local nonprofits, with a particular emphasis on catalyzing philanthropy from those 36 and younger. Give! is the nonprofit civic arm of the Colorado Publishing House and receives support from the Colorado Springs Independent, Colorado Springs Business Journal and the Pikes Peak Bulletin. For more information, please visit www.indygive.com.
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Thursday, December 20, 2018

5 mental health tips for the holidays

Posted By on Thu, Dec 20, 2018 at 5:43 PM

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Contrary to one myth that's been perpetuated in mainstream media, suicides don't increase around the holidays. In fact, November and December have the lowest monthly average suicide rates, according to the Annenberg Public Policy Center.

But the holidays can come with unique mental health challenges.

"I think it’s reconnecting with family members when there’s unresolved issues," says Lori Jarvis-Steinwert, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Colorado Springs. "I think it’s just that whole notion of going home, wherever home is. And I think it’s also, we’ve created expectations around the holidays as this joyous time of year. And so if your life isn’t particularly joyous, for whatever reason...things that you might be coping with OK on a day-to-day basis, it’s just everything’s in stark relief during the holidays."

The Indy asked locally based mental health advocates and providers for advice on maintaining mental health this holiday season, and recommendations on where to get help. Here's what they had to say:

1. Try not to isolate yourself. It helps to spend time with healthy, supportive people — who may or may not be your relatives — during the holidays, says Charlton Clarke, director of health care services at AspenPointe. If you can't or don't want to be around others, Jarvis-Steinwert suggests scheduling time to do something you enjoy, like going to the movies.

2. Now's not the time to take a break from therapy, even if it seems like a good idea, Clarke says. "This is a time when you should really continue to engage with therapy, if that’s what you’re doing, or if people have never thought about therapy and they’re feeling depressed and the holidays are stirring that up, this is the perfect time to actually begin to engage with mental health services." (See a list of resources below.)

3. If your therapist will be out of town, make a backup plan, says Brenna Sturgeon, a licensed professional counselor and level 2 certified addiction counselor at Peak Vista Community Health Centers. That could include checking whether they have someone else on call you can reach, or asking them to recommend other mental health resources.

4. Know the numbers. Call 1-844-493-8255 or text "TALK" to 38255 to connect with Colorado Crisis Services' trained counselors for free, 24/7. TESSA of Colorado Springs has a 24-hour hotline for victims of domestic violence or sexual assault and their children: 719-633-3819.

5.  In crisis? Visit a walk-in center. AspenPointe operates two walk-in crisis centers for Colorado Crisis Services. One, at 115 S. Parkside Drive, is open 24/7. (Locations and hours below.) "That’s probably the best first step, is if someone feels like they’re in crisis and they don’t know what to do, to go to one of those places to try to start the process," Clarke says.

Resources around town (in alphabetical order):

AspenPointe offers counseling, therapy, medication services and substance use treatment at locations around Colorado Springs. Call (719) 572-6100 for more information.

AspenPointe walk-in crisis centers:

115 S. Parkside Dr. (Open 24/7)

6071 E. Woodmen Road, Suite 135 (Open 7 a.m.-11 a.m., 7 days a week)

Brain and Body Integration, located at 1115 Elkton Dr. #300, offers counseling, biofeedback treatment and medication management. Call (719) 357-6471 for more information.

Insight Services, located at 212 E. Monument St., offers individual and group therapy (including yoga therapy) and substance use treatment on a sliding fee schedule. Call 719-447-0370 for more information.

NAMI Colorado Springs, located at 510 E. Willamette Ave., offers free support groups and classes for those experiencing mental illness and their loved ones. Call (719) 473-8477 for more information.

NAMI Colorado Springs support groups (do not meet Dec. 24-25 or Dec. 31-Jan. 1):

The non-faith-based Connection Support Group meets Tuesdays from 7-8:30 p.m. on the second floor of First United Methodist Church, 420 N. Nevada Ave. A group for family members of those living with mental illness meets across the hall.

Thrive Connection Support Group, a faith-based group, meets on second and fourth Mondays from 6:30-8 p.m. at Woodmen Valley Chapel, 290 E. Woodmen Road, Room 115. A faith-based support group for family members meets in Room 114.

Peak Vista Community Health Centers offers counseling, therapy, psychological exams and psychiatric support at locations around Colorado Springs. Call 719-632-5700 for more information.

Pikes Peak Hospice and Palliative Care, located at 2550 Tenderfoot Hill Street, offers grief support groups for both adults and children, and individual grief counseling for individuals. Call 719-633-3400 anytime for more information or to speak to a grief counselor.

TESSA of Colorado Springs, located at 435 Gold Pass Heights, provides emergency shelter, food, case management, counseling and victim advocacy for victims of domestic violence or sexual assault and their children. Call 719-633-1462 for more information or 719-633-3819 for the 24-hour SafeLine.
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Wednesday, November 21, 2018

USA Gymnastics refuses to relinquish governing body status, triggering hearing process

Posted By on Wed, Nov 21, 2018 at 2:43 PM

Who will manage the USOC gymnastics stars of tomorrow? - DONALD JUDGE/FLICKR
  • Donald Judge/Flickr
  • Who will manage the USOC gymnastics stars of tomorrow?
USA Gymnastics has refused to relinquish control of the national governing body to the Colorado Springs-based U.S. Olympic Committee, triggering a hearing process that USOC CEO Sarah Hirshland says could take weeks or months to complete.

USOC's complaint, filed on Nov. 5, stems from USAG's failure to act to protect gymnasts from sexual assault by doctor Larry Nassar, who was sentenced earlier this year to essentially life in prison for his molestation of dozens of gymnasts.

In a statement, Hirshland wrote:
As we’ve said before, this is a situation in which there are no perfect solutions. Seeking to revoke recognition is not a decision that the USOC came to easily, but we continue [to] believe it is the right action. While there are important questions to answer as we move forward with this process, we are eager for the hearing panel to begin its work and for our board to come to a final determination.
In a letter to gymnasts and the gymnastic community dated Nov. 21, Hirshland notes that the USOC's complaint filed on Nov. 5 seeks to revoke USA Gymnastics' recognition as the governing body in the United States, which allowed USAG to surrender its recognition.

But on Nov. 19, the USAG refused to relinquish control and instead asked questions about the hearing process. A series of questions and answers about the process are below.

She says in her Nov. 21 statement the next step requires her to choose an independent, three-person hearing panel with representatives from the USOC board of directors, the NGB Council and the Athletes’ Advisory Council. The panel will review her complaint and USAG’s response, hold a hearing, create a report and make a recommendation for the full USOC board, which will then take action.

"A formal timeframe is not described in our bylaws, so I don’t know exactly how long this process may take," Hirshland says. "At minimum, we expect it will take several weeks, perhaps a few months."

If the process concludes by USAG losing recognition, the USOC, on an interim basis, would assume control of USAG’s program. From Hirshland's letter:
The USOC would remain in that role until a new or existing organization has been identified to assume the responsibility of serving as the recognized NGB for gymnastics. It will be the critically important responsibility of that organization to lead gymnastics in the United States and rebuild a supportive community of athletes and clubs that can carry the sport forward for decades to come. The USOC is prepared to identify and help build such a culture for current and future generations of American gymnasts.
Read the Nov. 21 letter here:
The Q&A issued by the USOC:
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Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Springs announces Homelessness Action Plan

Posted By on Wed, Oct 10, 2018 at 10:23 AM

Mayor John Suthers announces the city's plan to fight homelessness. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Mayor John Suthers announces the city's plan to fight homelessness.

An assortment of cold city officials and nonprofit workers lined up underneath a highway-side billboard Oct. 9 to announce Colorado Springs' new Homelessness Action Plan. On the barely-above-freezing Tuesday, the timing couldn't have been better.

"The change in the weather highlights the ongoing need in our community for low-barrier shelter beds," Suthers said.

The city's action plan outlines eight steps to keep people experiencing homelessness out of the cold:

1. Continue "educating the public" via the HelpCOS campaign.

Advertising for the HelpCOS fundraising campaign, which the city launched May 31 in partnership with Pikes Peak United Way, has until now consisted mainly of signs posted near locations frequented by panhandlers. The signs tell commuters that "Handouts Don't Help" and encourage them to instead donate spare change to HelpCOS.org for the benefit of local nonprofits fighting homelessness. One hundred percent of donations will now benefit the expansion of low-barrier shelter facilities at Springs Rescue Mission and the Salvation Army, Mayor John Suthers said.

Lamar Advertising has donated four billboards to promote the campaign, the first of which was unveiled at the Oct. 9 event.

The city does not have an update on donations through HelpCOS, says Andrew Phelps, the city's homelessness prevention and response coordinator.

"We do expect that donations will increase as publicity increases, because we live in a very giving community," he says. (You can donate by texting "HelpCOS" to 667873.)

2. Add an additional 370 low-barrier shelter beds.

Hours after the Homelessness Action Plan was released to the public, City Council voted to approve $500,000 to help fund 370 low-barrier shelter beds at Springs Rescue Mission and the Salvation Army, both religious nonprofits. The rest of the funding for the beds will come from grants and donations.

Of those beds, 120 will come online at the Salvation Army and 100 at Springs Rescue Mission in November, Phelps says. The remaining beds will be available at the turn of the year.

Springs Rescue Mission CEO Larry Yonkers said his shelter had its first full-capacity night of the year on Oct. 8.

"This can't happen fast enough," Yonkers said, adding that Springs Rescue Mission also hoped to expand its kitchen and welcome center to accommodate more clients.

3. Implement a Homeless Outreach Court.


People experiencing homelessness often can't pay fines for crimes and misdemeanors often committed as a result of their circumstances — trapping many in the criminal justice system. The idea of a Homeless Outreach Court, according to the city's action plan, is to connect people with "case managers who can help guide them to the services they need" instead of charging them money that won't be paid. "By doing so, our Homeless Outreach Court will address the root causes of the offending behavior and empower individuals to take concrete steps to move out of homelessness," the plan says.

4. Establish a veteran housing incentive fund.

"This is the least that we can do for those who have served our nation," Phelps said.

The fund will encourage more landlords to rent to veterans who get vouchers through the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) Program, a joint program between the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. HUD recently announced $782,000 in additional funding for Colorado veterans.

"What often happens in our community is a homeless veteran receives a HUD-VASH voucher for an amount that is below a market-rate rent for a one-bedroom apartment," Phelps said. "So this fund will make up the difference and hopefully incentivize landlords to rent to homeless veterans with these HUD-VASH vouchers."

5. Develop a Comprehensive Affordable Housing plan.

In his State of the City speech last month, Suthers suggested Colorado Springs "make it a community goal to build, preserve and create opportunities to purchase an average of 1,000 affordable units per year over the next five years." That ambitious goal will be met in part by incentivizing private developers, he said.

The city's Homelessness Action Plan asserts that the city will begin developing a plan to address the affordable housing shortage next year. Nonprofit workers frequently cite the shortage as a contributing factor to homelessness: A 2014 Affordable Housing Needs Assessment by the city of Colorado Springs and El Paso County predicted a deficit of 26,000 available affordable units by 2019 for households making up to 120 percent of the area median income.

6. Support funding for a homeless work program with area nonprofit(s).

Programs like Albuquerque's "There's a Better Way" employ people experiencing homelessness on a day-to-day basis, doing jobs like picking up trash. The city's new plan says Colorado Springs will "investigate the feasibility" of such a program "via a competitive RFP process." Ideally, the plan says, the program would be within an existing local nonprofit and would involve the cleanup of parks, trails and illegal campsites. Funding is yet to be determined.

7. Add Neighborhood Services staff to aid in cleaning up illegal camps.

The mayor's proposed budget calls for hiring three full-time Neighborhood Services employees to work with the Colorado Springs Police Department's Homeless Outreach Team and handle camp cleanup. Two will be maintenance technicians solely responsible for cleaning up vacated homeless camps, and one will be a senior technician who can assist with larger cleanups or facilitate other needs identified by the HOT team. The proposed budget calls for $171,000 to fund salaries, benefits and overhead, city spokesperson Jamie Fabos says.

8. Develop "HelpCOS Ambassador Team" for downtown and Old Colorado City areas.

Such a team would consist of people who greet visitors in public spaces, providing maps and answering questions. The "ambassadors" would also help connect people experiencing homelessness with shelters and services.

The Homelessness Action Plan points to the San Antonio Centro Ambassadors as an example. According to the plan, San Antonio, Texas, has 85 ambassadors who "work every day to keep the vibe alive and make San Antonio 'The Friendliest City in America.'" Phelps says Colorado Springs probably won't need that many ambassadors.

The program could be volunteer-based, contract-based or a mix of both, Phelps says, adding that the city is getting quotes from Block by Block, a company that provides ambassador services for downtown districts around the country.

The City of Colorado Springs and Council President Richard Skorman will host three town halls to gather public input on the plan. They are:

• Oct. 17 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Westside Community Center, 1628 W Bijou St.
• Oct. 25 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at City Council Chambers, 107 N. Nevada Ave.
• A third November event to be scheduled later
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Monday, September 24, 2018

Where to get free flu shots in Colorado Springs

Posted By on Mon, Sep 24, 2018 at 4:02 PM

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Last flu season, El Paso County Public Health recorded 489 influenza-related hospitalizations: a 35 percent increase from the previous year.

It's about that time again.

To stay out of the hospital, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says everyone 6 months and older should get an influenza vaccine, which can be life-saving for kids. It's best to get one by the end of October.

"When a person receives a flu vaccine, it causes the body to create antibodies,"  a statement from Penrose-St. Francis Health Services explains. "This process takes approximately two weeks after vaccination. These antibodies provide protection against infection from this year’s anticipated strains of the flu virus. This is why people need to get a flu shot annually — the vaccination is based on the strains that research indicates will be most common for that year."

Getting a flu shot is especially important for members of high-risk groups, including children younger than 5, adults older than 65, pregnant women, nursing-home residents, and those with certain medical conditions, the statement adds. People from these groups are prone to complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections and ear infections.

Try vaccinefinder.org to find locations near you with the flu vaccine. If you're uninsured or don't have vaccine coverage, never fear. Penrose-St. Francis Faith Community Nurses will stick it to you for free at the following clinics for adults and children over 4:

Saturday, Oct. 5 from 9 to 11 a.m. @ Mission Medical, 2125 E. LaSalle St.

Monday, Oct. 15 from 2:30 to 4:30 pm. @ Dream Center Women’s Clinic, 4360 Montebello Dr. # 900

Wednesday, Oct. 17 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. @ Family Connections, 917 E. Moreno Ave.

Friday, Oct. 19 from 9 to 11 a.m. @ Connections 4 Life, 6436 US-85, Fountain

Friday, Oct. 19 from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. @ Ecumenical Social Ministries, 201 N. Weber St.

Tuesday, Oct. 23 from 9 to 11 a.m. @ Westside CARES, 2808 Colorado Ave.

Wednesday, Oct. 24 from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. @ Grace Be Unto You Outreach Church, 3195 Airport Road

Monday, Oct. 29 from 12 to 2 p.m. @ Tri-Lakes Cares, 235 Jefferson St., Monument

Monday, Nov. 5 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. @ Mercy’s Gate, 4360 Montebello Dr. #300

Tuesday, Nov. 6 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. @ Marian House Catholic Charities of Colorado Springs, 14 West Bijou St.

Tuesday, Nov. 20 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. @ Iglesia Nueva Vida, 124 Delaware Dr.

Wednesday, Nov. 21 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Springs Rescue Mission Thanksgiving Dinner) @ Colorado Springs City Auditorium, 221 East Kiowa St.

On Sunday, Oct. 6 from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., you can also attend the 9Health Fair at Mission Medical Center to get free flu shots, Pap smears, Body Mass Index tests, and foot screenings, as well as low-cost blood screenings ($20 to $40). Just make sure to register online.
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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Trump administration proposes historically low refugee ceiling for 2019

Posted By on Tue, Sep 18, 2018 at 1:39 PM

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks in Washington in May. - U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
  • U.S. Department of State
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks in Washington in May.

The State Department will accept a maximum of 30,000 refugees next year, breaking the record for the lowest cap on admissions for the second year in a row.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the new number — 15,000 under this year's limit — during a Sept. 17 media briefing, adding that the administration also plans to process more than 280,000 asylum cases. Historically, there has been no official limit on the number of admitted asylum seekers, and Pompeo did not provide an estimate of how many would actually be granted protection.

While refugees and asylees must both prove a "well-founded fear of persecution" in their country of nationality based on race, religion, nationality or social group, refugees must have their paperwork approved before entering the United States. Asylum seekers, on the other hand, ask for protection when presenting themselves at a port of entry or submit an application from within the U.S.

Currently, about 800,000 people already in the U.S. are waiting for a judge to rule on their asylum cases, Pompeo said. That's due in large part to an influx in Central and South Americans, including teenagers and young children, crossing the border to escape violence and extreme poverty.
"In consideration of both U.S. national security interests and the urgent need to restore integrity to our overwhelmed asylum system, the United States will focus on addressing the humanitarian protection cases of those already in the country," Pompeo said. "This year's refugee ceiling also reflects our commitment to protect the most vulnerable around the world while prioritizing the safety and well-being of the American people, as President Trump has directed."

As of Sept. 14, with just weeks left in fiscal year 2018, the U.S. had admitted a mere 20,825 refugees, far short of the 45,000-person limit set by President Donald Trump's administration. The year before, President Barack Obama had set the cap at 110,000, but Trump cut that number in half with an executive order after Obama left office.

Normally, the total number falls no more than a few thousand short of the cap, but changes at the administrative level overseas, including a longer vetting process, have caused a shortfall unheard of since right after 9/11.

Pompeo says part of the reason the cap is lower this year is to maintain rigorous vetting: "The security checks take time, but they're critical."

Refugee program cuts have already taken a toll on Colorado's resettlement agencies, the Independent reported in June. At the time — about three-fourths of the way through the fiscal year — Lutheran Family Services in Colorado Springs had resettled only 40 refugees, compared to 110 total last year, according to volunteer coordinator Cathy Verdier.

Denver's African Community Center had resettled 134 refugees in June, though it had planned to accommodate 400 by the end of September, Managing Director Melissa Theesen said. Two years ago, ACC's total was 581.

The Department of Homeland Security unleashed another bombshell with the Sept. 22 proposal to more broadly enforce "public charge" as a criterion for temporary and permanent admission. Under it, people enrolled in programs like Medicaid and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) would have a harder time getting their immigration status changed or extended.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional reporting.
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Friday, September 14, 2018

Three ways to help women beat ovarian cancer

Posted By on Fri, Sep 14, 2018 at 2:06 PM

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One woman is diagnosed with ovarian cancer every day in Colorado. And every 40 hours, the disease kills a Colorado woman, according to the Sue DiNapoli Ovarian Cancer Society.

The Southern Colorado nonprofit works to raise awareness of ovarian cancer, and helps the women fighting it pay for medical expenses, prescriptions, household expenses and health insurance deductibles.

Since there's no test for ovarian cancer (it's not covered in a Pap test), women's best defense against the disease is being able to recognize its symptoms, the Ovarian Cancer Society says. Those can include bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain or pressure, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, and urgent or frequent urination. Women experiencing these symptoms for more than two weeks may have early-stage ovarian cancer, and should see a gynecologist for further testing.

If the disease is diagnosed early, a woman's chance of survival is 93% — more than double her chances when the diagnosis is late-stage cancer.

Here's how you can show your support for the women fighting this disease for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and into the future.

1. Get a tattoo

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Between Sept. 11 and Sept. 15, Fallen Heroes Tattoo is donating $40 for every $60 tattoo to the Ovarian Cancer Society. On Saturday, the business will host an all-day party with lunch from Bird Dog BBQ, vendors and more to conclude its five-day Tattooathon event.

If you haven't scheduled an appointment, owner Brenda Brown says there's still a few times available through the 15th. "We are willing to stay as late as people are willing to come," she promises.

This is Fallen Heroes Tattoo's third year supporting the Sue DiNapoli Ovarian Cancer Society. Brown says the goal is to raise $15,000 — nearly double the $8,000 raised last year.

Call (719) 635-7431 to schedule an appointment with Fallen Heroes Tattoo, located at 524 W. Colorado Ave.

2. Get your exercise

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The Ovarian Cancer Society's 10th Annual Be Ovary Aware 5K Run 3K Walk is Sunday, Sept. 16 at America the Beautiful Park. Registration is $35 for adults and $25 for youth 16 and under ($40 and $30 if you wait till the day of).

There are cash prizes for the first, second and third place 5K winners in each category. Whether or not you beat out the competition, you'll get an event shirt, a runners' bag, a door prize ticket and post-race snacks from Wooglin's Deli.

The event will also feature a pre-run yoga stretch, door prize drawings and a memorial balloon release.

3. Rock out

Double Your Trouble will donate a portion of proceeds from its Oct. 20 concert at Stargazers Theatre to the Ovarian Cancer Society. - JOHN ODEN
  • John Oden
  • Double Your Trouble will donate a portion of proceeds from its Oct. 20 concert at Stargazers Theatre to the Ovarian Cancer Society.
Clear your calendar Oct. 20 for Double Your Trouble's Stevie Ray Vaughan tribute concert at Stargazers Theatre and Event Center.

Double Your Trouble consists of Randy Stephens on guitar and vocals, Bill Taylor on bass and Kevin McBride on drums.

Tickets are $15 to $20 plus fees, and a portion of the proceeds will support the Ovarian Cancer Society. Stephens says Double Your Trouble will also give away a Stevie Ray Vaughan replica guitar at the event.

The show starts at 8 p.m., and doors open at 7. Stargazers Theatre is located at 10 S. Parkside Dr.
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Thursday, August 30, 2018

Showered with Love takes homeless hygiene mobile

Posted By on Thu, Aug 30, 2018 at 4:29 PM

The Showered with Love trailer has three stalls with showers, sinks and toilets. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • The Showered with Love trailer has three stalls with showers, sinks and toilets.

Kelly Terrien, a local business owner and veteran, created Showered with Love when she "wanted to do something to give back to the community — something that was needed."

The result: a three-stall trailer with showers, sinks and toilets, where people experiencing homelessness can have access to "the basics for self-care."

For now, Terrien will park the trailer outside the Salvation Army's R.J. Montgomery Center shelter, where it will serve guests as the shelter remodels its bathrooms to make them more family-friendly. The Salvation Army will also partner with Showered with Love to bring its services to different areas of the community that may be far from downtown's shelters and nonprofits.

"There are homeless neighbors throughout the entire city," says Salvation Army spokesperson Jeane Turner. "If you can show them that they're loved and help them clean up," she says, that could be a first step on the path out of homelessness.

David Kauffman, the Salvation Army county coordinator, mentions Powers Boulevard as one area where homelessness is less visible than in downtown, but where services like Showered with Love's are of use. "This is one of the ways we can make a touchpoint with them."

Terrien also hopes her trailer can help the working homeless. Perhaps that looks like someone with a minimum-wage job, living in a car — someone who might not be as noticeable as a chronically homeless individual, but still needs a place to shower.

She says the nonprofit is looking for donations and volunteers. Currently, Terrien has just one other person on staff, but wants to hire a full-time operations manager. Showered with Love also needs a truck to pull the trailer, and items such as shampoo, conditioner and feminine hygiene products.

You can donate online here.
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Thursday, August 9, 2018

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo: Two more animals dead after hailstorm

Posted By on Thu, Aug 9, 2018 at 12:54 PM

CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN ZOO
  • Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo continues to suffer from the consequences of a freak hailstorm Aug. 6, announcing the deaths of two additional animals that fell victim to baseball-sized hail that shattered skylights and pelted outdoor exhibits.

A meerkat pup, which had recently been born and wasn't yet named, went missing underground after the storm and has not been recovered. The zoo has assumed it passed away. The second new casualty is Snoop, one of the zoo's prized peacocks.

On Tuesday, the zoo had confirmed the loss of a rare cape vulture, Motswari, and Daisy, a Muscovy duck.

Among the injured animals is Twinkie, a Rocky Mountain goat who suffered an eye injury. She's improved since Monday, the zoo says, and an external veterinary team from the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Colorado State University will visit her Friday. Other animals are improving or stable, and some have been removed from the zoo's list of medical concerns.

Many zoo guests and employees were injured during the storm, some rushed to the hospital. And vehicles in the uncovered parking lot were rendered undriveable by smashed windshields. The zoo says there's still about 100 cars waiting to be towed, down from more than 200 on Tuesday afternoon.

"Zoo security will continue to monitor the cars through 5 p.m. Aug. 9," reads an Aug. 8 statement. "At that time, if a vehicle is still in the lot, it will be towed to the south corner of the Zoo's parking lot without security monitoring...If vehicles are still not claimed by Tuesday at 8 a.m., they will be towed to a monitored facility at the owner's expense."

The zoo plans to reopen this Saturday, Aug. 11, at 8 a.m. for members and 9 a.m. for the general public. It will close at the regular time of 5 p.m. After that, the zoo will return to its normal schedule: seven days a week, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EdVenture programs for kids and teens (including birthday parties, ZOOMobile appearances, WildNights, Kids-Only WildNights, Zoo exploration tours and teen programs) are canceled until Monday, Aug. 13.

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is one of only nine zoos with accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums that doesn't have tax support. Instead, it operates on admissions, membership dues and donations, the zoo says.

"Although the Zoo is fully covered by insurance, the revenue lost during these high-season days will still be a hit for our non-profit budget," the statement reads. "Our employees are also stretched financially, due to personal vehicle losses."

Those wishing to help the zoo and its employees recover from the storm can donate at https://bit.ly/2OYtInY.
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Wednesday, August 1, 2018

VetFest welcomes veterans to Sky Sox Stadium for tournament, resources

Posted By on Wed, Aug 1, 2018 at 5:26 PM

vetfest_flier_printable.jpg
At the Wounded Warrior Project's first-ever VetFest on Aug. 4, attendees can catch up on Veterans Affairs information, slide into new opportunities, and maybe even hit a career home run.

Between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. at Sky Sox Stadium, veterans and their families will enjoy a softball tournament while taking part in a Veterans Affairs town hall and claims clinic, a career fair with more than 40 local employers, and a resource fair with up to 50 service organizations. Food and beverages will be available for purchase from vendors.

The event, also sponsored by the state and local posts of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, is free for all attendees, including the general public.

"It’s a chance for veterans to go to one location, get information about the VA, register with the VA and link up with all of the resources that are available to them here in the local community," says Veterans of Foreign Wars District 5 Commander Anthony Archer. "Plus the comradeship of veterans from all generations getting together."

And a dose of friendly competition: The Colorado Springs Fire Department, Wounded Warrior Project and Mt. Carmel Veterans Service Center are among the organizations vying for victory in the all-day softball tournament.

Here's the full schedule from the Colorado Springs Sky Sox:

9 a.m. Doors Open

10 a.m. Softball Tournament, Job Fair, Town Hall Begins

12 p.m. Claims Clinic / Mobile Clinic Opens, Town Hall Ends

2 p.m. Job Fair Ends

4 p.m. Championship Game Begins, Claims Clinic / Mobile Clinic Ends

4:50 p.m. Trophy Presentation, Closing Remarks
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