(COLORADO SPRINGS) — Catholic Charities of Central Colorado is taking action to solve the homelessness issue plaguing the Colorado Springs community. What used to be an elementary school in the Hillside community will be turning into low-income affordable family housing.

The classrooms of Helen Hunt Elementary School will be turned into over 20 multi-sized apartments, specifically for homeless families.

“I think it continues the legacy of a school that was built in 1901 and has served generations of kids for over a century. The fact that it will be providing housing for families and kids moving forward is something that the neighborhood has really embraced,” said Catholic Charities of Central Colorado President & CEO, Andy Barton.

These apartments are meant to be a transitional housing model in hopes that families will only have to spend six to 18 months living there. 

“Our job is to work with them to help with employment, with the right wages, and get folks to a place where they’re able to eventually, after their time with us, move out of these units and into more stable housing in the community,” said Barton.

Tenants will be paying 30% of their income, no matter how much they are making. If a family happens to go in with no income, then they will be paying $0 in rent. The reason, Barton said, is to not overburden these families as they are trying to get back on their feet.

“Our homeless families are sleeping in cars. They’re in a shelter. They might be spending a night or two in a motel, and a night or two on couches of family’s houses… They’re out of sight. So, I think that the community, probably for a large part, does not know how big this issue is,” said Barton.

Children that grow up experiencing homelessness are statistically more likely to become homeless when they are adults, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Catholic Charities’ vision for this project is to end family homelessness with a two-generational approach. By addressing homelessness for this generation, the hope is that the youths of the family do not end up in a similar situation as adults.

“It’s really important that we give families who have been experiencing homelessness the opportunity to get stable in the middle of a strong community, and the Hillside community is certainly that for us… It has a sense of community to it and it is removed from some of the busier commercial corridors,” Barton said, also adding that the reaction from members in the neighborhood has been really positive so far.

Catholic Charities is now working to raise $5.2 million for this project and hopes to start moving families in by the end of 2023 and the beginning of 2024. You can donate to this project at their website: CCHaritiesCC.org/EnterpriseZoneTaxCredit or call 719-866-6449 for more information.

“Every Christmas that passes with kids sleeping in their cars is not good for our community, so we’re going to work as quick as we can,” said Barton.