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Donor gives homeless campers a room for a week



Steve Sample, 52, sat shirtless Wednesday in a room at the Express Inn across from Fountain Creek, sharing a cigarette with a friend. "It is kind of nice to sit not all bundled up," Sample said, the heater blasting next to him. He and about 14 others will not sit all bundled up this week, thanks to a woman who went to the motel, at 725 W. Cimarron St., Tuesday and paid for four rooms, insisting they be occupied by homeless men and women camping along Fountain Creek. It was a $640 donation that for a handful of the hundreds of homeless campers in the city meant a break from the cold and snow for Christmas. "This lady did a wonderful thing," said Sample, who suffers from chronic back pain exacerbated by the cold. "I was so damn thankful it is not even funny." The woman told the staff at C-C Boarding Home Annex, a nonprofit that sublets rooms from the motel for disabled veterans and people on social security, that her name was Linda Craft and that God told her to pay for the rooms. No one by that name could be reached for comment Wednesday.

Magi Spence welcomed the weeklong shelter as an aid in finally kicking the pneumonia she's been battling for weeks. "This was a blessing for us, but there are so many camps over here," Spence said. Indeed, the dozens of camps along Fountain Creek appear to multiply by the day and are visible from Interstate 25, the exercise path along the Pikes Peak Greenway and America the Beautiful Park. It is a dramatic shift from this time last year, when homeless were effectively driven from such camps by city-sponsored cleanup efforts. The cleanups, led by the nonprofit Keep Colorado Springs Beautiful, were suspended and are now supervised by homeless advocates.

In recent weeks, area residents have flooded the camps with donations of food, clothing and blankets, all while city officials grapple with how to handle the growing homeless community. On Dec. 7, the Colorado Springs City Council voted to shelve a proposed no-camping law that could have displaced scores of homeless people living along creeks, parks and other public property. The issue is expected to be picked up in February. This week isn't the first time the Express Inn has been used as a shelter. At the first freeze this year, Nam Tiggemann and her son Barry Tiggemann, part owners of the home annex, invited campers to get in out of the cold.

A Christmas dinner for the homeless will be held at the motel today, followed by a meal at the motel Friday put on by Woodmen Valley Chapel. "Everyone is going to be eating well this Christmas," said Brian Puerta, resident services coordinator with C-C Boarding Home Annex.


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