Family Solutions Collaborative | Helping Families in Crisis

Get Informed | Change the World

A Coalition of Family Homeless Services Providers

In an effort to provide comprehensive community support for families in crisis in the Pikes Peak region, Catholic Charities, Partners in Housing, and Family Promise have been hard at work formalizing the Family Solutions Collaborative. In October 2019, Catholic Charities & Partners in Housing cohosted a Families in Crisis Summit, spending the day with other direct service providers, who support families in need. During this workshop, we developed a focus on the work to be done to create a better referral network, common goals for preventing family crisis, and a clear “map” of services for families.

103 Families

on the VI-SPADAT waiting list

152 Families

identified as homeless on the 2022 Point-in-Time Survey

Current Members of the Family Solutions Collaborative

Catholic Charities

Family Promise

Partners in Housing

Pikes Peak United Way

COS Housing Authority

Family Life Services

Dream Centers/Mary’s Home

Salvation Army

Early Connection Learning



Collaborative History as reported in Catholic Charities Helping Hands Newsletter:

A big step was recently taken to expand family sheltering in Colorado Springs. Family Promise opened Colorado Springs’ first stand-alone family-dedicated shelter in March. The former Stage Coach Motel on South Nevada is now the New Promise Family Shelter and boasts 17 rooms of varying sizes. This shelter has doubled the number of shelter beds available for families experiencing homelessness.

Update: The Family Promise Shelter closed in July 2022 due to a lack of funding.

School districts in the United States are required by the McKinney Vento Act to perform a count each year of the children in their schools who are homeless (living in a shelter, transitional housing, doubled up due to economic hardship, living in motels or unsheltered). For El Paso County, the most recent survey found 2,142 children living in these conditions. The number is invariably higher since it does not account for children under the age of 5 who are not yet in school. It is truly a hidden crisis in our community.

The sheer number of vulnerable families and children led to the formation of the Family Solutions Collaborative (FSC) in 2019. The FSC is comprised of 12 community agencies that provide services for families. Catholic Charities is a founding member. After an initial summit in October, the FSC has turned its focus to four key areas: systems mapping, family voice, common referral, and data sharing. These four priority areas are believed to be the biggest barriers to coordinated support for vulnerable families in our community. In December, group meetings were held to discuss issues in each of the focus areas.

Systems mapping identifies gaps in services across providers and helps show ways we can all work more efficiently in supporting families. By mapping the systems in place, we established shared agreements and understanding of the situations and problems facing families and how we work together to solve them.

Family Voice: Representatives in the collaborative are closely aligned with Catholic Charities in the belief that it is critical to listen to the people who use our agencies when trying to find ways to work better. Work is being done to host small, town hall or focus group meetings with the people we serve to get their feedback on what works and what does not for a family in need of support.

Common referral addresses the problems that are created for both families and agencies when the important information that is shared by individuals in need of services does not transfer to other agencies. We believe there will be far greater efficiency and far less hassle for families if we can establish a common form for information that is shared by all agencies working in the collaborative.

Data sharing across agencies is not presently done but does represent enormous opportunities to improve the success we have as a collaborative with families. When agencies share this information means faster, better, results for families.

In the first quarter of 2020, staff from participating agencies will work to bring some of the ideas shared in December to fruition. The hope remains that we will be able to dramatically improve the foundations of support for vulnerable families in Colorado Springs. Once in place, solutions to these four focus areas will result in reduced numbers of families and children who find themselves in a place they should never have to be: homeless.

The Family Solutions Collaborative convened on Oct. 3 to host the first Summit for Families in Crisis. Fourteen Colorado Springs family services agencies attended to learn more about each agency’s mission and services and to develop a better strategy for meeting the needs of families in crisis in our community.

The event was a series of working sessions to build a common vision for the future and determine how each of the agencies can be a part of that vision. One session allowed each agency to detail their areas of expertise on colored sticky notes, placing them on a Family Crisis & Housing Instability map. The map highlights community strengths and gaps.

Josh Green of Mission Accomplished, was contracted by the collaborative and served as facilitator. He will help the agencies move from individual impact to coordinated impact, and ultimately, collective impact through collaborative action.

One issue highlighted by the group was the lack of a coordinated entry point for families, requiring them to fill out similar intake forms and “relive” their trauma as they seek services from multiple agencies. Another was the lack of reliable/current information through systems such as 211 due to outdated content and the current system being difficult for families to navigate. (Note: 211 is revamping their system).

The Summit ended with each agency being asked to sign a commitment to be part of the collaborative and to work collaboratively to develop community solutions for families in crisis.

The City of Colorado Springs has released the working document on the Homeless Initiative ( It includes five goals: 1) inform the public; 2) increase access to shelter and services; 3) decrease barriers for people ready to exit homelessness; 4) increase access to housing; and 5) clean up illegal camps and protect the environment.

Goal 2 – Access to Shelter & Services includes an objective to add shelter options for families experiencing homelessness. The Homeless Family Solutions Collaborative (HFSC) – comprised of Catholic Charities, Partners in Housing, Family Promise, and the Salvation Army – played an integral role in getting family homelessness included in the city plan by developing a white paper on the issue ( The key recommendations included developing 20 emergency family units and 40 transitional family units based on a variety of research including the Point In Time Study (PIT) conducted in January 2018. The most recent PIT from January 2019, continues to show a need for emergency and transitional family shelter.

To date, the progress has been slow as options for developing 20 emergency family shelter units have not materialized due to timing and the cost to purchase existing properties for emergency housing.

Some progress has been made toward identifying potential transitional housing units – 40 in total – that would be managed by Partners in Housing. However, the identification of appropriate units and securing funding has been challenging in a very tight affordable housing market.

Family housing units are critical in helping families reach stability. Last year, 65 to 100 families who asked for shelter were turned away most months due to a lack of appropriate shelter. This includes a father with young children, a mother with a teen son, or no available lower bunk beds for young children at the shelter.

As affordable housing options in Colorado Springs and surrounding counties continue to be an issue, finding an affordable solution to acquiring the 60 housing units remains critical.

As the City of Colorado Springs continues to work collaboratively with agencies and ministries across the region to assist those experiencing homelessness, Catholic Charities continues to focus on how to best serve families and children in crisis.

Currently, 65 to 100 families who ask for shelter are turned away each month due to a lack of appropriate shelter. This includes a father with young children, a mother with a teen son, or no available lower bunk beds for young children. The number of unsheltered families is actually greater as many families never go to a shelter because they are afraid, if identified, their children will be taken away from them (which is not true).

While plans to address the temporary shelter needs of families experiencing homelessness are being developed and implemented, there continues to be a lack of affordable housing options in Colorado Springs and surrounding counties. Wages can’t keep up with the cost of living: the median home price exceeds $275,000 and the average rental for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,158 per month. This makes it very challenging for families to find and afford housing.

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, the poverty guideline to determine financial eligibility for federal programs is $16,910 for a household of two persons. But the 2018 Colorado Self-Sufficiency Standards in El Paso or Teller County for a single parent with one pre-school-aged child requires an income between $40,135 and $49,809 to be at a level of self-sufficiency. Currently, only 2-4 in 10 jobs in Colorado pay enough to provide this level of wages.

To address the situation in El Paso County, Catholic Charities convened family shelter agencies to develop the 20/40 Family Homelessness Collaborative to address the lack of emergency and transitional family shelter in the community. As a result, Family Promise will open an emergency family shelter by the end of 2019 to accommodate 20 emergency housing units. The RJ Montgomery Family Shelter will increase capacity by 40-50 beds in the mid-range future, and Partners in Housing plans to increase transitional housing inventory by 20 units in the next two years.

These solutions are temporary but should help serve families in crisis as we continue to work with agencies across the region to foster solutions to the affordable housing issues facing our local families.

In December, the City of Colorado Springs added a ninth point focusing on family homelessness to the proposed “Action Plan for Homeless Response.” The effort to include families in the City’s comprehensive plan to address homelessness was spearheaded by a Homeless Family Solutions Collaborative comprised of Catholic Charities, Partners in Housing, and Family Promise. This collaborative presented a white paper on the issue of family homelessness referred to as the “20/40 Plan” and has begun work addressing a three-year timeline presented within that plan. (The “20” refers to the need for 20 family shelter units and the “40” to the number of recommended family transitional housing units.)

The first major steps focus on data gathering and addressing the shortage of family shelter space. During the Point-in-Time (PIT) count of homeless individuals in the community that was just completed in January 2019, greater focus was placed on counting families through increased volunteers and outreach to new locations where homeless families are located or receive services. In addition to the expanded PIT effort, the collaborative is working to more effectively engage local school districts through their federally mandated McKinney-Vento counts, which identify homeless students.

Conversations regarding the feasibility of developing a 20-unit, single-family occupancy shelter is taking place. Local agencies working with homeless families, including Catholic Charities, see this kind of shelter as a critical component to help stabilize homeless families. Currently, the only family shelter in Colorado Springs turns away an average of over 40 families per month due to a lack of appropriate space. Additionally, our current family shelter is forced to separate mothers and fathers once in the shelter due to space constraints. Adding 20 units of single occupancy family shelter would address both the community’s shortage of space as well as the current reality of separating parents/families.

The Collaborative has set a goal of late 2019 for opening this shelter, at an estimated cost of $1.5 to $2 million.

In October, the City of Colorado Springs unveiled their 2018/19 Action Plan for Homelessness Response. The goal is to make homelessness “a rare, brief, and non-recurring” issue for anyone who is at risk.

The eight-point plan includes education, increasing low barrier shelter beds by 370, implementing a Homeless Outreach Court, establishing a veteran incentive fund, developing affordable housing, supporting a homeless work program, camp cleanups, and creation of an Ambassador Team. What it does not include is any support for families who are homeless.

Families have unique needs, especially those with young children. There is a considerable population within Colorado Springs who experience homelessness while living as a family. As a consequence, children are often forced to live on the street or in a shelter without a stable lifestyle and are subjected to a variety of trauma. They end up sacrificing education along with other basic needs, laying the groundwork to perpetuate the cycle of generational poverty.

Andy Barton, CEO of Catholic Charities, said, “Family homelessness is a hidden issue. It is not always immediately apparent within a community because it is much less common for a family to engage in activities such as soliciting or sleeping outside. Often it takes the form of drifting from one place to another, couch-surfing, moving from motel to motel, or living in a vehicle.”

Catholic Charities, along with several other partners, is advocating for a ninth point to be added to the plan, calling for an increase in family overnight shelter beds by 20, as well as adding 40 transitional housing units.

Family poverty and homelessness remain persistent issues that have a real, generational, impact on homelessness within the broader community. It deserves a place in the City’s plan.