Jun 4, 2010 4:29 AM by Matt Stafford

Reason to celebrate

When talking about homelessness in Colorado Springs, for a while there hasn't been much to celebrate. However, on Thursday, Homeward Pikes Peak and those staying at the Aztec Motel are getting out the cake.

"Some people aren't here because they've gotten jobs and they've moved on." Bob Holmes, with Homeward Pikes Peak, said to a group Thursday night gathered at the Aztec Motel on East Platte Ave.

Holmes, as well as Karl and Teresa McLaughlin, have reached out to large portions of the homeless community in the Springs. Through grants from the City and the El Pomar Foundation, they've been able to get 103 people into jobs in just about 100 days; that's about one a day since February. It's also given many a place to live for free while looking for work, just by giving The Aztec Motel "a fresh coat of paint".

"The Aztec has taken some hits in the past anyways, and I thought it would be a good thing to get some good positive publicity for it," explains Roy Barnes, who works with the property owners.

"Trying to get it looking respectable," adds Neil Donovan, a resident who was recently homeless.
For Donovan, it's only been two weeks since he moved in but he's already calling it an answered prayer. While living on the streets he was thinking in survival mode, now with a roof over his head, he can start to think about his life again.

"it gives us time and the tools to get our lives back," Donovan says, but for him it's been much more than that. After losing his parents and siblings to cancer, and losing even more in his life to addiction, it's given him the support needed to get his life in order. He's been more than happy to work off his rent, and that's win-win for property as well. Managers think the positive stigma will stick with the motel, but they know the work is more important than that. The importance shows in celebrations like Thursday's, of the 100-plus jobs.

"That's a hundred people with the potential to get off the streets." Barnes says, optimistic of the plan down the road.

As for homelessness in Colorado Springs, of the roughly 550 homeless individuals, Homeward Pikes Peak says they've reached out to 400 of them. Holmes says they've provided resources in many ways; 125 bus tickets home to family for campers, 20 campers willing to check into rehabilitation clinics for addiction, 60 individuals placed in affordable housing programs, and 75 currently staying, helping out and looking for work at the Aztec Motel. Holmes says that leaves about 150 campers still out there. Homeward Pikes Peak will begin a Phase 2 in late summer early fall of this year. They hope to reach all of the campers.



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