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Springs Rescue Mission takes over Pueblo Rescue Mission amid expansion 

click to enlarge Formerly called Wayside Cross, Pueblo Rescue Mission sees another day. - COURTESY SPRINGS RESCUE MISSION
  • Courtesy Springs Rescue Mission
  • Formerly called Wayside Cross, Pueblo Rescue Mission sees another day.

Last week, Springs Rescue Mission (SRM) announced a temporary takeover of its southern counterpart, the Pueblo Rescue Mission (PRM), adding to the homeless service provider's already long list of upcoming expansions.

Over the past few years, PRM has struggled — canceling holiday dinners and narrowly avoiding the need to shut down the women's side of the shelter and lay off full-time employees. This summer, after executive director Bob Simms left for a pastoral job, PRM nearly shuttered. If it had closed, Pueblo would have lost 50 much-needed beds, so the nonprofit's board approached their northern counterpart for financial help.

With Pueblo roots of his own, Larry Yonker, SRM's CEO, says his organization was happy to oblige. In September, SRM funded an interim director for PRM in lieu of filling an open staff position of its own. SRM also staged a "board-over" — as Yonker put it — meaning SRM personnel now comprise a majority of PRM's board. Then, the First Baptist Church of Pueblo donated $200,000 to PRM. That chunk of change is still in the bank, but the joint Rescue Missions' offer to buy a building on the south side of Pueblo, conveniently near other service providers, was just accepted. (Though it hasn't closed.)

If the deal is finalized, the Rescue Missions plan to renovate the building into a new, bigger shelter space. PRM, now a sober shelter, will begin accepting drunk and high people who can behave themselves — a transition that SRM successfully made with its own shelter, and one that squares with mounting evidence that tolerance yields better outcomes. PRM would be the first and only low-barrier shelter in Pueblo, sorely needed since the Salvation Army is permanently closing its winter shelter in the area.

Anne Stattelman, executive director of Posada, Pueblo's largest service provider and coordinator of their Continuum of Care, says, "There's never going to be enough shelter space because you have to understand, we're such a poor community and we've just been inundated with people who have no resources." Local service providers have seen their client base about triple in recent years, she says.

Springs-side, Yonker reports SRM is in good shape, having about doubled income over the past three years under an aggressive capital campaign. The money went toward opening 168 new beds in November, adding a 24-hour day center due to soft open at the end of April, and developing a 65-unit permanent supportive housing complex in partnership with Nor'wood Development Group slated for completion at the end of next year. Oh, and they'll start serving meals on Sundays starting in July.

In other expansion news, there's been no decision made regarding SRM's bid to acquire the beleaguered Venetucci Farm. Regardless, Yonker suggests food-growing lurks somewhere in the organization's future. (It is, perhaps, telling that Yonkers says he admires Goodwill Industries' model of developing multiple revenue streams to achieve nationwide scale.)

Yonkers readily admits that SRM has been growing at an unusual rate.

"It's not typical," he says, "to have all the capacity we do."

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