2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Dozens flock to Springs Rescue Mission’s cold-weather day shelter

Published: February 5, 2014, 2:04 pm, by Jakob Rodgers
Jeremy Johnson and Alex Griffith examine blueprints for the building that the all-winter shelter will be housed in at the Springs Rescue Mission in Colorado Springs, Colorado on Friday, October 11, 2013. (Kent Nishimura/The Gazette)

Jeremy Johnson and Alex Griffith examine blueprints for the building that the all-winter shelter will be housed in at the Springs Rescue Mission in Colorado Springs, Colorado on Friday, October 11, 2013. (Kent Nishimura/The Gazette)

The Springs Rescue Mission’s cold weather day shelter has been busy since a blast of cold, arctic air hit the Pikes Peak region earlier this week.

The nonprofit has hosted about 50 people for lunch on Tuesday and Wednesday, and crowd levels have varied from 45 people to 60 people throughout each day, said Sarah Stacy, director of the organization’s Resource Advocate Program.

The Springs Rescue Mission opened a winter shelter this year for people to spend the night, a new resource that has proven popular since opening Nov. 1 at 25 W. Las Vegas St.

In the past, emergency shelters were only open when the low temperature dipped below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. But this year, the nonprofit decided to open a shelter every night from Nov. 1 through April 15, regardless of the temperature.

So far, the facility has been at capacity all but three nights, Stacy said, prompting officials to expand the program from 30 beds to 35 beds on Dec. 28 after consulting with the city’s fire marshal.

“We felt like we had to do something,” Stacy said.

On a typical night, about 60 people show up seeking shelter at the nonprofit’s facility, prompting officials to implement a lottery system. An overflow emergency shelter has often been established by The Salvation Army.

The Springs Rescue Mission has kept the shelter open during daylight hours anytime the high temperature is below 20 degrees Fahrenheit for two consecutive days, Stacey said.

The nonprofit previously opened such a cold-weather day center for six days in December.

Stacy expects the day center to be closed Friday because temperatures are expected to warm near the end of the week — a change from previous plans, which called for the center to remain open during daylight hours Friday.