Salvation Army turns cold shoulder to winter day care site
The embattled Salvation Army day center has been offered a winter reprieve, but it is unclear if the temporary solution will be accepted.
The Glenwood Springs City Council agreed Thursday that the center, which must move from its current location at 1116 Cooper Ave., can use the old gas station at 23rd Street and Grand Avenue, owned by the city.
With that approval come restrictions: The center can use the spot only for six months and can be ousted with 30 days notice if problems arise sooner.
“They really just said no is what they did,” said day center manager Fran Gillming of City Council’s decision.
The organization would have to put $12,000 into the old gas station to install showers, new floors and make it livable.
“We can’t put $12,000 into a gas station for six months,” Gillming said.
The day center faced much opposition by neighbors who worry it would increase transients and “professional homeless” people in nearby neighborhoods.
The debate came after City Council voted to continue talks on the idea of placing a recycling center at the same location until a later meeting.
Salvation Army workers insisted they don’t allow “professional homeless” to use their day center, which is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday through Friday, and that it is the city’s social responsibility to help people who are down on their luck.
Also, as an unexpected twist to the already-contentious debate on what to do with that property, representatives from Enterprise Rent-A-Car told council they’d be interested in leasing the land from the city as a new location for their business, which is now located at the Ramada Inn on Sixth Avenue.
Despite this, Salvation Army workers tried to convince council to give the center a chance.
“The homeless folks are already here, but we feel there are a portion of those homeless who could enter the workforce and be productive in the community,” Salvation Army Board member Geneva Powell said.
She said they try to give a “hand-up, not a handout” to those who are down on their luck.
The center provides a phone, a shower and food for those looking to get a job.
“Believe me, this is a need in the community and we have to face up to it,” Salvation Army administrator Karolyn Spencer said.
But those who live near the proposed day center site at 23rd and Grand proved difficult to convince.
“We have a terrible, terrible, terrible problem with the transients,” nearby resident Rusty Ford said. “I think we’re doing too much and encouraging these people to come.”
Neighbors told stories to council about drunken transients passing out on neighborhood lawns, vomiting in the alleys and urinating in the streets.
“I think that unless you can absolutely guarantee that these types of problems aren’t going to happen, that you should look for another place,” said resident Harlan Spencer. “I say no for that spot.”
Another neighbor said he has two young daughters and he’s concerned about their safety.
But Spencer and the others who run the day center say the day center has an 80 percent success rate in meeting its goal of helping its clients find jobs and said the rules there are very strict, thereby discouraging drunkards and criminals from hanging around.
“It’s not acceptable having people sleeping on lawns and urinating,” Councilman Rick Davis said. “But on the other hand – and there’s always another hand – this (program) seems to be working.”
Salvation Army workers hoped they’d be able to use the site for about two years until they can collect enough money to build a combination sleep shelter and day center at the Glenwood Meadows property on land donated by Robert Macgregor, the land’s developer. The catch is that they can’t have the land until they have enough money to build the center. That cost, Karolyn Spencer estimated, will be about $1.2 million.
“It’s very sad, but it’s also understandable,” Gillming said of the decision. “It will be to the community’s benefit to have us … We want to be part of the problem, not the solution.”
Instead, council members voted to help the center get through the winter months, but will force it to move on in spring.
“We’re going to be the bad guys no matter when we kick them out,” Councilman Don Gillespie said. “So I’d say six months. Let’s be the bad guys tonight. Let’s get them through the winter and get them out of there.”
Mayor Don Vanderhoof agreed.
“We have a certain obligation to the poor people who come into our community. But we also have an obligation to our solid citizens who are working,” he said.
“I want the Salvation Army to understand that this is a stopgap,” Vanderhoof said, adding that he wants to see an acknowledgment in writing that the center would be out of the 23rd and Grand location in six months..
“There are other plans for that property and they need plans to move somewhere else,” Vanderhoof said.
He also encouraged residents to be watchful to see if transient activity in the area increases when the center is opened up.
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