Fighting to Keep Families Together - The Salvation Army

Nov 9, 2023

After two family shelters in Colorado Springs, Colorado, closed in rapid succession last spring, the city approached The Salvation Army about increasing its shelter capacity and converting the long-serving downtown R.J. Montgomery Center to be an all-family shelter.

The result? The revamped RJ Montgomery Family Hope Center, which has more than doubled its capacity to house families in their own 250-square-foot rooms. The city funded half of the $400,000 updates, with the Christian organization called COS I Love You and a neighboring apartment complex covering the rest of the expenses.

In the last six months, the RJ Montgomery Family Hope Center has served hundreds of households.

“Once a family leaves, another family generally takes its place before the end of the day,” said Jeane Turner, The Salvation Army El Paso County Community Relations Director. “We even doubled up a few single mom families when we can so we can accommodate more families with no place to stay."

The shelter has been averaging about 35 families and 70 children each night, with a large percentage of those families being able to moved into permanent housing after a little help getting back on their feet.

Prior to the remodel, men and women were separated, which meant the shelter was unable to serve single dads. Currently three single dads are in the shelter and able to stay with their children, keeping families intact.

Jose was one of them. He was able to stay with his 8-year-old daughter when the shelter transitioned, something he said he was grateful for. Jose's wife had suddenly passed away in March from diabetic complications and how his daughter, who had just graduated from second grade, also has diabetes.

“We are trying to get everything going and get back to life,” he said. “You can’t just quit. You have to keep things going. [The Salvation Army] is giving families hope.”

The two are now living in stable housing," Turner said. “It is truly a celebration with the new configuration,” she said of being able to serve single dads.

With more children at the shelter than ever before, The Salvation Army has learned very quickly that they needed more playground equipment and space for children to thrive. The Family Hope Center is hoping to install playground equipment soon.

“The new atmosphere provides transformational rebuilding opportunities for families like Jose's - it's amazing,” Turner said. “The Family Hope Center is meeting families’ immediate needs as well as providing case management and resources that equip, educate and empower families for success.”

"While the emergency shelter is meant to be a 90-day shelter, and families can stay longer if they are working with a case manager, the average stay is just under 60 days," said Captain Doug Hanson, El Paso County Coordinator.

“We provide a continental breakfast and a hot dinner as well as case management services, which while aren’t required, more than 90 percent of people opt to accept the help,” Hanson said.

While the RJ Montgomery Family Hope Center is a blessing to the families currently housed there, each day the intake team turns away between 6 to 8 families seeking shelter, Turner said.

The plan is to start a capital campaign next year to build a brand-new facility to serve even more families on The Salvation Army’s main campus located at 908 Yuma Street. The new shelter would double capacity again.

"Our plans to build a new family shelter on our Yuma Street Campus is ultimately the best solution to help address the growing problem of family homelessness in our community,” said Hanson. “We’re already seeing a tremendous amount of community support and enthusiasm for the project.”

Turner said every time she visits the shelter, she is touched by the stories of families being positively impacted by The Salvation army staff and the generosity and support of the community!

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