Launch Pad aims to improve students trajectory

Action Center’s homeless shelter now helping Red Rocks students

Glenn Wallace
gwallace@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 1/28/20

For 11 Red Rocks Community College students, having a lot of roommates is the least of their worries. For one thing, they won’t have to worry about rent for an entire semester. For another thing, …

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Launch Pad aims to improve students trajectory

Action Center’s homeless shelter now helping Red Rocks students

Posted

For 11 Red Rocks Community College students, having a lot of roommates is the least of their worries.

For one thing, they won’t have to worry about rent for an entire semester. For another thing, they won’t end up sleeping on different friends’ couches or in a car, or in a homeless shelter instead.

Thanks to a new partnership deal with Red Rocks Community College (RRCC), The Action Center happily celebrated the reopening of its shelter in the 7000th block of West Colfax Avenue on Jan. 24 with a ribbon cutting. The family shelter — renamed The Launch Pad — had housed roughly 20 people when it was shut down in July of 2018, but will now house 11 Red Rocks students each semester, free of charge.

The students, who are being selected by RRCC now, will move in Feb. 1.

“It felt like a long time coming, but we’re feeling fantastic,” Action Center Executive Director Pam Brier said during the shelter ribbon cutting event.

Action Center Board President Cindy Baroway said that the decision to close the shelter last year was a “stake through the heart” moment for the organization. “But it had to be done financially.”

Baroway credited Lisa Fowler, the vice president of student success at RRCC, along with members of a special committee that was looking for ways to reopen the shelter with developing the eventual solution — partnering with RRCC to meet a specific need.

“We didn’t want to open it up again, and just have to close it again a year later,” Baroway said.

The Action Center did not want to just ensure that the new shelter would be fiscally sustainable, but that its positive effects on the students would continue on as well.

“We’ll also track students at least six months after they leave here,” said Action Center board member John Covert. “Are you employed? do you have stable housing? are you continuing on with school?”

Hunter Ambrose, a current Red Rocks student, said she certainly could have uses a place like the Action Center shelter when she was younger, having previously spent time in a shelter herself. She said having a safe and secure place to sleep at night and do homework would be a crucial help to students, and would help them feel like they are “Not being punished for circumstances outside the school.”

“They could be working 40 yours a week and going to school full time, and still not making these apartment (rent) requirements,” Ambrose said, referencing the problems created by rising housing costs across the metro area.

According to Shannon Webber, Director of Financial Aid for RRCC, students that are identified as “unaccompanied minors” for financial aid purposes, as well as students identified by staff and faculty from across the Red Rocks system will be considered for one of the 11 spots each semester. Webber added that students will be able to apply for at least one additional semester of housing assistance.

Still, she says providing a safe home base for 11 of RRCC’s students is only a drop in the bucket.

“Pretty consistently across the nation, about 11 percent of community college students have experienced homelessness in the last year,” said Webber. She said a Red Rocks-centric survey of the college’s 7,500 students last year found the same thing. To help, the community college offers free counseling to students in need. Webber says the better amount of community awareness to the homeless problem, and the new partnership with The Action Center represents definite progress.

“It’s really unprecedented,” she said.

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