Demand on charities grows as recession deepens

Posted at 11:06 PM, Apr 24, 2020

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — The hundreds of voices calling the Pikes Peak United Way's 211 resource hot line each day share similar fears.

"They don't know where to go. They don't want to go outside because they're scared to go to grocery stores, they're scared to get their families sick. They don't have income that they used to have," explains director Eric Barnett. "And so, everything is new."

Barnett estimates some 7,000 calls for help have been answered since mid-March. Roughly 95 percent of the staff at United Way have been redirected to the call center.

Many callers struggle to feed their families, but call-takers can also help connect people with charities providing housing assistance now that income is drying up.

"Definitely call 211, we're able to get you into contact with those resources that do have the money currently, or have assistance to possibly help," Barnett said.

Demand for services also spiked at the Springs Rescue Mission after the shutdowns started last month. Travis Williams, Chief Development Officer for the mission, said the need for day services like hot meals, a shower or place to simply be grew by 100 percent.

"During the day time, we've had to open up three different day centers in order to provide spacial distancing, and then also just meet the demand of folks who are coming onto the campus and need help," Williams said.

Making things more challenging, volunteers are staying away under the stay at home order. Williams said they've expanded their staff to try keep everything running smoothly and guests at the mission have also pitched in.

"It blessed us particularly to see the guests rise up and say, you know what, we know that there aren't volunteers right now, we're going to pick up a broom, we're going to pick up the sanitizer, we're going to work on creating some space," he said. "It's not perfect, but it's been encouraging."

While none of the guests have tested positive for COVID-19, the City of Colorado Springs is still providing an isolation shelter at City Auditorium for those who are feeling sick in order to to limit the spread of germs at the main shelter.

Williams said around 11 people were staying in the isolation shelter as of Friday afternoon. The mission expects to begin giving COVID-19 tests to those sick guests at City Auditorium as soon as next week.

In the meantime, the charities are asking those in the community who can afford it, to consider making a donation. Funds can be donated directly online at and

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