Steve Sample, 52, sat shirtless 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.
"For us this is a great happiness. But on the street remains a lot more homeless people", - complains Magi Spence.The newspaper notes that recently the number of homeless people, who settled in the open air near the river Fountain Creek, has increased markedly, despite the prohibitions of local authorities and attempts to change the situation.
“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.
UPDATE:27 Dec 2009
Prince William Sleeps On Street
A cold alley in central London is a far cry from a palace - but it was the spot Prince William chose to sleep to highlight the plight of homeless British teenagers.
He spent a chilly night near Blackfriars Bridge last week with Seyi Obakin, the chief executive of British homeless charity Centrepoint. William has been the charity's patron since 2005.
"I cannot, after one night, even begin to imagine what it must be like to sleep rough on London's streets night after night," William said overnight. "Poverty, mental illness, drug and alcohol dependency and family breakdown cause people to become and then stay homeless.
"I hope that by deepening my understanding of the issue, I can help do my bit to help the most vulnerable on our streets."
William, second in line to the throne, was exposed to some of the hardships found on London's streets when his mother, Princess Diana, took him to a shelter in 1996.
Just 13 at the time, William spent an hour at the facility with his younger brother, Harry.
Diana was well-known for her charitable work and the homeless was a group she was particularly close to. She had also served as Centrepoint's patron, a position she held at the time of her death in 1997.
A photograph released by the charity shows William, 27, in the alley in jeans, a grey hooded jumper and a knit hat pulled low.
In a post to the charity's website, Obakin said the idea for William to spend a night on the streets was hatched in March.
"He was determined, as he has always been, to understand deeply the full range of problems a homeless young person might face," Obakin said.
"For me, it was a scary experience. Out of my comfortable bed. Out there in the elements. Out there on an extremely cold night, with temperatures down to minus four degrees. And it was the same for Prince William. But he was determined to do it."
Obakin said they found a secluded spot - tucked away behind some rubbish bins - and settled in for a restless night.
"But there was no shielding from the bitter cold, or the hard concrete floor, or the fear of being accosted by drug dealers, pimps or those out to give homeless people a 'good' kicking," Obakin said.
William is currently training to be a Royal Air Force search-and-rescue pilot.