Hotel takes business approach in renting homes to homeless
Many organizations try to help the homeless improve their lives. The Express Inn Hotel and its non-profit C-C Boarding Home (CCBH) Annex may have the most
logical reason of all to do it well: Failure to do so would be bad for business.
It was a close call before. When Barry Tiggemann and his mother, Nam Tiggemann, became managing partners of the 45-year-old hotel at 725 W. Cimarron St. two and a half years ago, they found drugs and prostitution rampant in the establishment. “We had to kick people out of 30 rooms,” Barry Tiggemann recalled.
At the same time, with the Express Inn's location near the concentration of tent camps around I-25 and Fountain Creek, various people on the edge of homelessness were breaking into rooms looking for shelter some nights. Finally, instead of implementing the major hotel renovation they had once planned, he and his mom decided, “Why not try to help them?”
Thus began the Express Inn's partnership with C-C Boarding Home Annex, which (according to the Annex website) had been founded 30 years ago to help provide “dignified group home settings” for mentally handicapped people. The Annex, of which Tiggeman is the administrator, is partly an extension of that concept, counting a partnership with Westside-based Pikes Peak Mental Health among the numerous services available to the Express Inn's CCBH Annex tenants. The business' slogan is “Because there is a way.”
That way is the Annex subletting rooms from the hotel, making them available as cheaply as $15 a night or $60 a week (in a three-roommate situation). In addition to help for the mentally needful, amenities include free food, clothing, laundry, meeting rooms and computers with Internet (in the lobby); room refrigerators, microwaves and cable TV; and assistance (as necessary) with job hunting, transportation, medical problems, prescription drugs, public-assistance issues, government paperwork and education (including tutoring for children in the several families that are renting rooms).
To give a nudge toward self-sufficiency, the weekly rate is based on what a person might earn from one day's work at minimum wage. The rules are similar to those at most motels. No drugs are allowed, well behaved pets are OK, and alcohol is tolerated, within reason. At the same time, people who do not pay their rent stand to be evicted. “This is not a shelter, it's to get people back on their feet,” Tiggeman explained.
Some tenants stay just a short while; others like to stay on. One such person is Randy White, a retired Army staff sergeant (E-5), who lost his legs in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. After close to 14 years of living on the streets in Denver and Cripple Creek, he's been at the Express Inn for nearly a year, with a room to himself and his little dog Wildfire. He thanked the CCBH Annex staff for helping him deal with Veterans Administra-tion and other issues. “This is home now,” he said.
The $60-a-week rate is made possible in large part through the support of more than 20 area entities, mainly churches (led by Woodmen Valley Chapel), businesses and non-profit groups.
In addition, around noon on frequent Saturdays, the chapel's “Mobile Kitchen Team” sets up in the Express Inn parking lot, cooks up homemade lunches and gives them free to anyone who shows up. The service is intended primarily for the motel residents, but creek-dwellers are not turned away, Tiggemann said. As many as 250 meals are served each time.
“Due to an incredible response from the Colorado Springs community in the form of clothing, food, toys, books, monetary donations, bicycles, education classes and labor assistance, C-C Boarding Home is expanding its influence throughout the community faster than ever,” the Annex website states. “Rather than enabling the needy by providing handouts, we will continue to provide managed care and mentorship to address the critical needs of our fellow citizens that are enduring less fortunate times.”
About 50 of the hotel rooms are now used by CCBH Annex, with the other 70 still available to travelers for overnight stays. But because the Tiggemanns are in charge of both operations, there is flexibility in how the overall space is used, so if the CCBH Annex needs more space over time, that can easily happen, he agreed.
The Annex/Express Inn model has had a critic in Bob Holmes, director of Homeward Pikes Peak (the city's umbrella agency for homeless issues), who told City Council Jan. 26 he had concerns about an “appearance of impropriety” in the system CCBH Annex uses to ensure rent payment through tenants' Social Security Insurance (SSI). However, after talking to Tiggemann and staff afterward, Holmes told the Westside Pioneer, “They had reasonable answers to the questions.”
For his part, Tiggemann said SSI is often a delicate situation, depending on the mental competency of the individual involved. Often it is only through CCBHA help that such people even receive SSI, not to mention assistance from Pikes Peak Mental, Tiggemann said. Furthermore, he added, the motel exerts no “hold” on renters' SSI funds when they move on.
A long-range CCBH Annex goal is to redo the original hotel kitchen to allow hot meals to be cooked and served three times a day as a further service to residents. But with an estimated cost of $450,000, that may not happen for a while, unless a grant request goes through.
All the CCBH Annex staff, including Barry Tiggemann, live in the hotel.
Tiggeman described how he used to go home at nights to a 2,000-square-foot house, but he decided he didn't need that much space, he had to be at the hotel a lot, and he felt more at home there, anyway. “We're a little community here,” he said.
Westside Pioneer article