Man Eyes Former RV Park for Homeless Shelter

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February 24, 2010 by   - () Leave a Comment

A Colorado Springs, Colo., businessman plans to buy a former KOA campground in that city and turn it into a for-profit enterprise to provide transitional shelter for the homeless, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette.

Paul “Pak” Koscielski has a contract to buy the 14-acre parcel from a business partner for an undisclosed sum.

His idea is to lease as many as 200 RVs and/or mobile homes for $400 a month, including utilities, and set aside an area for tent camping at low or no cost.

He plans to partner with at least one nonprofit that would help figure out how to best use the space and assist the residents with their social service needs.

“They’re more capable of managing social issues. That’s not what we’re good at,” Koscielski said Tuesday, after telling the city council about his proposal.

He still has to line up financing, he said, but that isn’t his biggest hurdle.

“It’s the city,” he said.

The issue is over zoning. He and a proponent of the project, City Councilman Tom Gallagher, say the property is already permitted for use as a campground. But Koscielski said city planners are treating it as a new development that would place cumbersome stipulations on the project.

“Let’s just say confusing opinions are coming out of it,” Gallagher said.

City planners could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The property also is in a floodplain and floodway, but Koscielski said that shouldn’t factor into a decision on the project.

“Yes, it’s safe and a permitted use in a floodplain and floodway,” said Koscielski, whose background is in civil engineering. “It’s been there since the 1950s with no incidents.”

Gallagher envisions the campground as serving two missions: giving people a place to stay as they gear up to enter a program or treatment shelter, and giving those coming out of a shelter a low-cost residence as they transition back into society.

“These are two of the missing transition pieces that are making our system not work,” Gallagher said.

Koscielski said the property has space for 160 RVs and 40 mobile homes, plus about 1 ½ acres for tent camping. Whether the space would be used that way would depend a lot on input from a nonprofit partner.

“There are so many ways it could be used — whatever works,” he said.

No matter how the living arrangements shake out, he said the key advantage is that the homeless will have a place to stay with bathrooms, showers, laundry facilities and a permanent address — an option that could be attractive as a no-camping ordinance goes into effect next week.

“It’s a benefit for us, a benefit for the city and a benefit for those who need it,” Koscielski said.

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