COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — Colorado Springs City Council will hold an appeal hearing Tuesday for a land use decision regarding a project on the west side creating permanent supportive housing for youth and young adults experiencing homelessness.
The development is called the Launchpad. It will be a four-story, 50-unit apartment building located along 19th Street near the intersection with Dale Street.
The building would offer tenants one and two-bedroom units. It was awarded Low-Income Housing Tax Credits from the Colorado Housing Finance Authority last May.
The group appealing the decision argues the height and density of the building will violate the recommendations of the West Side Master Plan. They have also shared concerns about the stability of the soil at the property.
The project developer told the Colorado Springs Planning Commission last month that the proposal meets all of the city's zoning and development requirements. The planning commission voted unanimously in favor of the development.
The Launchpad would greatly expand the services offered by The Place, a non-profit group that helps hundreds of young people in the Pikes Peak Region exit homelessness every year.
"At The Place, we help young people who are at risk of homelessness, or currently experiencing homelessness change the trajectory," said CEO Shawna Kemppainen.
Some 181 teens and young adults utilized the charity's downtown shelter in 2022. There are 20 beds in the shelter divided between male-identifying and female-identifying teens and young adults.
Clients are fed, housed, and receive case management assistance.
"And wrapped around all that young people have access to education and employment job training, a computer lab, health care; we have mental health clinicians on site," Kemppainen said.
The causes of youth homelessness are varied. However, data provided by The Place show some common trends. Young people who self-identify as LGBTQ+ are overrepresented, making up 26 percent of the clients served in 2022. A majority of clients, 51 percent are Black, Indigenous, or People of Color (BIPOC). Roughly 1 in 3 clients had experiences with the foster care system. Another 23 percent had experiences with the juvenile justice system, and 24 percent reported substance use or abuse issues.
"The primary cause of homelessness among youth and young adults is conflict in a family," Kemppainen explained.
She said the biggest hurdle facing these young people is the high cost of housing.
"You're 19 years old, maybe college hasn't been part of your path. You had a job that you thought was OK and suddenly you were laid off and you didn't have any savings, right? So now, in this economy you're faced with finding an apartment for maybe, hopefully, less than $1000 or $1200 a month," Kemppainen said.
The Placed served a total of 638 youth across all of their programs in 2022. The charity's street outreach program supported 484 youth helping 37 percent of them to exit homelessness to a safe and stable place to live.
Another 133 youths entered the charity's housing program with 75 percent of those clients moving on to another stable place to live.
The Launchpad would multiply the non-profit's ability to help provide housing to teens and young adults experiencing homelessness.
"Homelessness, in general, really is about a lack of affordable housing and a lack of support services," Kemppainenn said. "That's what The Place is here to address for youth and young adults in our community."
The following statement was provided to us by the Ruth Washburn Cooperative Nursery on Monday:
Ruth Washburn has recently come under scrutiny in the local news/media. The matters at hand are in regards to our private program's policies and procedures. We are a small non-profit co-op that values each individual family that we work with. We will not address private matters of concern publicly. We have an established grievance process we encourage our families and staff to follow when there is a concern with our actions. We believe in the power of conversation, accountability, and restorative action to manage difficult matters that any of our families or staff encounters. We will continue to strive for peaceful resolutions through those means.
In regards to The Launchpad Apartments we have held a public meeting 09/26/2022 and an informational meeting for our cooperative members on 08/05/2023. The Place was also available at our Harvest Festival 10/14/2022 to show families blueprints and answer questions they may have about the new facility. We have spoken to The Place to ask our questions or present our concerns about The Launchpad as a neighbor. Through these conversations we have learned a great deal about young adults that are experiencing homelessness, and situations that often lead them to this outcome. We have also learned a lot about the Launchpad Apartments, and the impacts it will have on us as neighbors. The Place is an outstanding organization that is using evidence-based strategies and trauma-informed practices to decrease the amount of people experiencing homelessness in Colorado Springs. They have an excellent success rate. We feel thoroughly informed and confident that The Launchpad Apartments will be a welcome neighbor and enhance the security measures around Ruth Washburn. We have found zero evidence of anything to the contrary. We will continue to support The Launchpad Project and The Place. We believe that Ruth Washburn and the Place share in our mission and values of supporting the needs of youth so they can become productive members of society. We are honored to share in such a great mission.
Watch KOAA News5 on your time, anytime with our free streaming app available for your Roku, FireTV, AppleTV and Android TV. Just search KOAA News5, download and start watching.