In 2018, Springs Rescue Mission embarked on a journey to create more pathways out of homelessness through new approaches to sheltering.
That journey led to the development of a program that breaks sheltering into three core tiers — Entry, Next Step and Advanced — designed to create steps out of homelessness and back into self sufficiency.
“This allows us, programmatically, to create places for a wide array of different individuals,” said Robert Farmer, director of guest services. “Having the tiered shelter program creates a thriving environment for those attempting to progress. This is evident with the continued growth in the number of guests working, as well as an increase in the amount securing housing.”
Since 2017, Springs Rescue Mission’s shelter program has grown from an emergency, winter shelter with 65 beds to a 450-bed campus with separate shelters for a variety of new guests, men and women. In this article, we’ll take a look at the different levels of the “tiered sheltering program” and how they are providing our neighbors in need with new pathways out of homelessness.
“We want to provide safe spaces that are conducive to movement. And this allows us to do that.” – Robert Farmer, director of guest services
The 150-bed Entry Shelter (originally called the Emergency Shelter) was opened in the winter of 2018 to meet a growing demand for low-barrier, cold-weather shelter in Colorado Springs.
The Entry Shelter is specifically designed for homeless individuals who are new to the Mission — a place for men and women to address their basic human needs for clothing, food and shelter.
“We want everyone to have the chance to come in from the cold and have a place to be safe and warm,” said shelter coordinator David Saarela. “It gives people an opportunity to start out and get some motivation before they move forward and hopefully out of homelessness. … From there, people have the opportunity to take the ‘Next Step.'”
All of the Mission’s shelters are low-barrier. This is especially true of the Entry Shelter, as the guests it is designed to serve are often new to the campus and experiencing a wide array of issues (mental health problems, drug and alcohol addiction, et cetera). In order to fulfill our commitment to accept people as they are, the only requirements for the Entry Shelter are: that guests are law-abiding; that guests pose no threat to themselves or others; that they not be intoxicated to a degree that might bother other guests; and that they have not been restricted due to violation of these requirements.
“The entry shelter is good because it does get you out of the cold, you don’t have to go camp and worry about what might happen on the outside. It’s a warm, safe place to stay. For a lot of people it’s really important because it can save lives.” – CJ, Entry Shelter guest
Next Step Shelters
The Next Step Shelters — one for men and one for women — were introduced in 2019 for guests who are actively engaged in case management and/or who are making an attempt to work, either with a community employer or with Work Engagement.
“This shelter is designed to be a safe space for people who are ready to deal with their addictions; who are ready to find jobs; who are ready to start moving out of homelessness,” Farmer said.
The Next Step Shelters offer 200 beds and are designed to be more comfortable than the Entry Shelter — more conducive to guests’ movement out of homelessness. Benefits of this program include extended access to campus resources and evening opportunities for life-skill classes, Bible studies and other benefits.
“We call it the ‘Next Step’ because that’s really what it is,” Saarela said. “It’s the first on their way back to being self sufficient. It’s a good feeling — it gives them confidence and lets them start to get their feet back under them.”
Shelter Coordinator Darla Livingston said that having a tiered shelter program for women is especially important, because many homeless women have experienced domestic violence and other issues that make paramount their safety and privacy.
“There’s empowerment and there’s a real sense of community,” she said. “I see a lot of movement and a lot of positivity.”
“[The women’s shelter] is a necessary thing to be able to take the next step — it’s one step closer to being out, and it’s proof to myself that I’m doing right. I’m working my way out of homelessness. … This is a safe place to be if you’re a woman.” – Mary, Next Step Shelter guest
Advanced Shelter Program
The Advanced Shelters (one for men and one for women) offer 100 beds for working individuals and is the last step of the tiered sheltering program. From here, guests are encouraged to move into regular housing and return to self-sufficiency.
“This starts getting them used to paying their own way and supporting themselves again,” Saarela said.
Beds are available by application to individuals in good standing who are currently staying in the Next Step Shelters (men’s or women’s). While physically located within the Next Step Shelter buildings, these beds are separated and available for a program fee designed to help cover expenses and get guests more invested in their own recovery.
“A lot of these people are working hard but are making minimum wage,” Saarela said. “This gives them the opportunity to save some money, move up in their jobs and really get on a good footing before they move on and out of here.”
It is critical that ASP guests remain active in case management and develop transition plans to move on from the Mission when financially capable of doing so. Advanced Shelter Program guests are required to check in with their case manager at least once per month in order to re-qualify for the program. The list of benefits includes: assigned bunks, a TV and DVD player, a shared kitchen and nightly access to laundry and showers.
“Because of this place, I’ve been able to get a job, buy a car and I’m just about able to get an apartment. … This place has afforded me the opportunity to work and save money while I work on myself. … For me, it’s a life-changing help — and it came at the perfect moment, when I needed it the most.” – Joe, Advanced Shelter guest
* This program also considers guests receiving other types of income, including Supplemental Security Income benefits.
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