A nonprofit in southeast Colorado Springs is giving new meaning to the term “Extreme Makeover.”
In just 10 days, Dream Centers plans to transform the rubbled remains of two methamphetamine houses into a glitzy new community gathering space for Mary’s Home — a faith-based program helping homeless mothers and their children. In doing so, the nonprofit wants to house more mothers who have been living in their cars or on friends’ couches, while helping reinvigorate one of Colorado Springs’ roughest neighborhoods.
“We’re addressing poverty at its roots,” said Brenda Rogers, the program’s executive director.
The project isn’t part of any television show. But the nonprofit’s leaders say it will look no different than an episode of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”
Construction crews converged on the property Saturday, beginning to construct a 3,100-square-foot building from scratch. Called a Family Life Center, it will include a community room, children’s room and a kitchen to help those mothers learn how to prepare meals for their families.
Normally, construction projects like this take five months to complete. But this one is expected to be done by Oct. 15.
Plumbers, electricians and painters will team up for a highly choreographed bid at speed building. For example, while some people put up drywall in one building, others might be wiring a room elsewhere. And while waiting for the paint to dry in one area of the building, others may be putting in flooring in another.
“There’s a lot of moving places that come into play,” said Ryan O’Leary, director of innovation at Aspen View Homes, the project’s developer.
The reason for speed is simple: Mary’s Home staff members turn away more than 400 families a year, because they simply don’t have anywhere to house them.
“The urgency is because the need is so real. We are turning away families,” said Yvette Maher, the nonprofit’s chief development officer. “The extreme part — and the 10-day part — is cool, but it’s functional, because the problem is not going away. The problem is increasing.”
It marks the first phase of a two-part, $1.7 million expansion project called “Extreme Dream” that aims to expand the nonprofit’s presence in southeast Colorado Springs, while better serving the mothers it helps house next door.
The second phase involves the construction of an adjacent, 3,100-square-foot building. This Family Services Center will include classrooms and areas for counseling sessions, along with office space for the nonprofit’s staff.
So far, the nonprofit has raised nearly $1.1 million of the funds needed to pay for the project, and it’s still seeking donations.
Such transformations are nothing new for the nonprofit.
In 2013, the nonprofit purchased a dilapidated apartment complex in the heart of southeast Colorado Springs — one overrun by bed bugs. Construction workers stripped it to the studs and rebuilt it as a shiny new, 12-unit haven for homeless mothers to finally work their way off the streets.
Tenants at Mary’s Home pay only $20 to $50 a month for a fully furnished, one-bedroom apartment, complete with couches, beds, dining ware and a television, towels, toiletries. Should they graduate from the program and leave for a stable house or apartment, the family gets to keep all of those furnishings for free.
Participants with jobs also must save 30 percent of their incomes as a nest egg for when they move out.
There’s no rush for women to leave, the program’s leaders say. Mothers not seeking a college degree can stay up to two years, and mothers seeking a college degree can stay for up to five. On average, women stay at the program for about two years.
Since it opened, 22 families have moved out of Mary’s Home and into stable housing.
“They come in broken, but very humble and very determined to change their lives,” Rogers said.
Completing the two new buildings will have the added benefit of opening up space in the apartment complex for an additional three families.
The nonprofit doesn’t plan to stop there. The nonprofit plans to embark on a couple more expansion projects in the next several years — possibly to expand the city’s stock of affordable housing.
“We’re stepping into a space that is just the beginning of what this community, and this city, can do to pave the way to bring hope and healing to the hidden homeless,” Maher said.