A year ago, Springs Rescue Mission — in partnership with the City of Colorado Springs, Nor’wood Development Group and other community partners — officially opened Greenway Flats, the region’s first permanent supportive housing complex.
Greenway Flats is a four-story, 65-unit apartment building for men and women who have experienced chronic homelessness. Development of the complex began in 2018 and the first tenants began moving into their 400-square-foot studio apartments — all with modern amenities and many with west-facing Pikes Peak views — last June, with a grand opening in July.
Greenway Flats has helped nearly 70 formerly homeless individuals find permanent housing. It has been a game-changer for neighbors who spent years living on the streets or in shelters. They no longer fear for their lives in the freezing cold of Colorado winter, or experience the extreme stress of constantly searching for nightly shelter. They now have a home and the security of knowing it won’t be taken from them.
The building’s residents have access to community amenities including computers, a small library, a TV lounge, laundry rooms and a community garden; as well as services that include case management and job skills training classes. Meals are also provided each day at “Jackie’s Place,” a large dining hall and events space on the building’s ground floor (it was named for Jackie Jaramillo, a former SRM staff member who helped initiate the development of Greenway Flats).
Since residents began moving into Greenway Flats last summer, many have spoken to SRM about how having permanent housing once again — after years of chronic homelessness and struggles with physical, mental and emotional health — has impacted and transformed their lives.
After the sudden loss of his wife, Aric was thrown into a gradual descent to homelessness.
He became extremely depressed, lost custody of his beloved daughter and stayed drunk constantly in an attempt to keep the pain at bay.
For two years, Aric lived in a tent along Sand Creek in east Colorado Springs. He braved the cold and lost most of his possessions to theft, floods and violent hailstorms. But in 2017, he came to the Mission for help.
For another two years, Aric lived in the men’s shelter and participated in Work Engagement (a program that uses volunteerism to prepare shelter guests to re-enter the workforce). He began restoring the confidence he had lost on the long and winding road to 5 W. Las Vegas St.
Aric caught a big break last Summer, when he moved into a fourth-floor studio apartment (with a beautiful mountain view) at Greenway Flats. After more than two years of homelessness and another two living in the shelter, Aric finally had a home of his own.
“My [case manager] worked above and beyond the call and got me into this place — I was the seventh person on the list,” he said. “[Having been homeless] makes me appreciate things more. As much as a roll of tape or a screwdriver. It’s the small things. I don’t have to carry my stuff with me everywhere.”
Moving into an apartment was a major step forward for Aric, but things weren’t perfect. It was a month before he got a good night’s sleep. The room was too quiet; the bed too comfortable; his possessions too secure.
“It took about a month to get over the culture shock,” he said. “It took a while to get used to. … But once I did, it was great. It’s a good place to be, and I’m thankful to be here.”
Now, Aric is settled in and has decorated his apartment to taste. Among his prized possessions are two guitars, which he plays often. And the best part is that he doesn’t have to worry about their — or his — safety.
It wasn’t the first time Tammy had been in a tight spot — she struggled for years to keep her head above water.
As a single mother, much of her life was spent working long hours at low-paying jobs just to make ends meet. But when she became homeless in 2018 — suddenly and without warning — she came straight to Springs Rescue Mission and began the slow, uphill battle of rebuilding her life.
Tammy worked hard to pull herself up, joining Work Engagement, encouraging others and participating in case management. Her hard work and patience paid off last June, when she was approved for an apartment at Greenway Flats. Her homelessness ended as suddenly as it began. She once again had a home — a place to call her own.
“When I found out, I cried for two days,” she said. “When I signed the lease and they put those keys in my hand, I didn’t believe it was real. But now I can honestly say I have a home. It’s real, and I thank God every day that we have it.”
Tammy, a mother through and through, had a few words of encouragement in mind for anyone who may be experiencing poverty or homelessness.
“Don’t let anyone tell you it’s easy, because it’s rough,” she said. “But if you pick your head up, push forward, work hard and trust in God, you’ll make it. You’ll make it.”
Kim arrived at Springs Rescue Mission at Christmastime 2018.
Suffering anxiety attacks and other mental health issues made it difficult for her to reach out for help and support. But when she finally did, her life was transformed.
“I started opening up and meeting people,” she said. “I had no idea where to go and what to do, but they were really nice to me and helped me a lot. … Things started slowly getting better. I got in Work Engagement and that was like therapy for me; it kept my mind off drinking, it kept me busy and gave me something to look forward to — it gave me my hope back.”
While on laundry duty in the Resource Center, Kim met another shelter guest named Patrick. The two quickly became close, laughing and flirting with each other over the washers and dryers. Soon they began dating, and last summer they moved into their own apartment at Greenway Flats.
“He got word that he got an apartment there,” Kim said. “He asked if I could be put on the lease, and now here we are almost a year later. … When we first moved in here it was hard. We’re used to the noise and light and things going on around us. It took a couple of weeks to get used to that. … But we’re here for each other, and we help each other. And that’s what matters.”
Since then, they have adopted a kitten named Chester to help with Kim’s anxiety and she has graduated the Careers in Construction program through SRM. Life has changed a lot in just a year, and Kim says there are many reasons to be grateful. But she’s honest about the fact that nothing’s perfect.
There is still a long way to go and much to do, but there is one thing that keeps Kim pushing forward: her beloved daughter. She keeps a hopeful eye on the future, working hard to reunite with Cheyenne (almost 16 now). Kim longs to carry the mantel of motherhood again.
“You have to have faith,” she said. “You can’t give up. You have to be patient — your time will come. Don’t give up. Never give up.”
Kim also had some words of wisdom and encouragement for others experiencing unemployment, poverty or homelessness.
“Although you’re struggling right now and things seem bleak and hopeless, God does work miracles. He works in mysterious ways. All you have to look around, especially here at Greenway Flats. You’ve got to have the right people in your life, people to support you and motivate you. Positive people. Once you find those keys in life, anything is possible.”
The cycle of abuse in Vince’s family came to a head when he was 16, with the tragic murder-suicide of both his parents.
“[My father] shot my mom three times and then walked to the end of the driveway and shot himself,” he said. “It felt like there was no way to get justice for any of it. I felt like I had nothing and nobody.”
After the devastating loss of his parents, Vince went to live with his maternal grandmother in Macon. But things didn’t go well, and she sent him to attend Colorado Springs School, where he remained until he turned 18 and graduated.
Vince found peace and stability in the years after high school. He graduated college with a technical degree, landed a stable job that he enjoyed, bought a house in southwest Colorado Springs and became an avid runner.
But when Vince suddenly collapsed at work one day, he was diagnosed with advanced multiple sclerosis. At age 25, less than a decade after the death of his parents, he was mourning another loss — that of his health and mobility.
“After I was diagnosed, I tried to keep running,” he said. “But I would just fall on my face.”
Vince fell into depression and became homeless a few years later. He found his way to Springs Rescue Mission in 2018. He lived in the shelter and participated in Work Engagement for over a year before being selected for an apartment at Greenway Flats last summer.
“I absolutely like living at Greenway Flats,” he said. “I feel independent. I feel like I have everything I need.”
Vince started therapy and for the first time in his life is dealing with his trauma — he’s even forgiven his father.
“It’s definitely helping now,” he said. “I’m ready to tie up some loose ends, and I’m striving to be more positive.”
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