Caritas Corner | Family Homelessness

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Andy Barton – May 1, 2022

By Andy Barton

In June, a local service provider and a Catholic Charities partner agency called Family Promise announced that they would be closing their shelter for homeless families. The New Promise Shelter opened two years ago and provided a critical service in the homelessness response system. Operating in a repurposed motel on South Nevada, New Promise provided 15 rooms for families who would otherwise be sleeping in tents or in their cars. While in a shelter, families worked with Family Promise staff – and often with Life Coaches from Catholic Charities – toward more stable housing options. The loss leaves a massive gap in services for the most vulnerable families in Colorado Springs.

The impact of the New Promise closure will be felt by all providers of family services in the community. For the Life Coaches in the Catholic Charities Family Connections program, it takes away the option for one of the most critical steps families need in moving from crisis to stability. It is both the overall reduction in the community’s shelter capacity as well as the loss of the non-congregant family shelter that creates pain points for the system. Congregant shelter (where people sleep in beds or cots in one large room) remains available for families in Colorado Springs, but that option comes with limitations. Since males and females are separated in congregant settings, multigender families are forced to split up while in the shelter. Families frequently refuse congregant shelter, even when it means staying outside.

There is a cautionary component to what prompted the decision to close the New Promise Shelter. Like Catholic Charities, Family Promise relies on a variety of funding sources to do their work, and individual donations are the core financial support. Family Promise cited a $150,000 decrease in donations since 2020 as the reason that they could not continue operating the shelter.

Philanthropic support for human service agencies has fluctuated dramatically over the past three years. Giving had declined leading up to and through the first part of the pandemic only to rebound to record levels through the middle stages of COVID. If the loss of funding at Family Promise signals a larger trend, it could be devastating for the charitable service sector and those we serve.

Inflation and talk of recession play a major role in the pullback on philanthropic giving; but in a frustrating “Catch 22,” these economic factors simultaneously increase the need for charitable giving. As one small example, the National Energy Assistance Directors Association estimated in June that low-income households, those making an average of $26,400 annually, will spend 25.7% of their income on gas and home energy bills. That leaves very little for families to spend on housing, child care, food, and other essential items. Higher prices of gas and food coupled with skyrocketing housing costs are hitting our poor and vulnerable disproportionately hard.

Because of your support, Catholic Charities can provide preventative support for those who are on the verge of homelessness, and we will help fill the hole that the closure of the New Promise Shelter leaves in the community. Your gifts make it possible: thank you for sticking with us. With your ongoing help, we will continue to support the women, men, and children who are depending on us all.

Andy Barton is the President and CEO of Catholic Charities of Central Colorado.  This article first appeared in the Colorado Catholic Herald.

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