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REACH Pikes Peak elevates people out of poverty, via self-sufficiency

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REACH combats poverty, creating self-sufficiency. - COURTESY REACH
  • Courtesy REACH
  • REACH combats poverty, creating self-sufficiency.

As our cost of living continues to rise, many families living in poverty find the gap to overcoming their circumstances widening. It's a challenge that REACH Pikes Peak, a nonprofit committed to providing supportive services for El Paso County's low-income families, understands all too well.

The organization has been active in the county for more than 50 years, delivering a variety of assistance, from one-time rent payments to long-term, intensive programs that help lift individuals out of poverty. Currently, REACH provides four programs, each with a range of services: Family Stabilization Services, Transitions to Independence, Individual Development Accounts and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance.

Last year through these programs, REACH helped 12,220 individuals. The aim is to prevent homelessness and equip people with the tools they need for self-sufficiency and financial independence.

Patrice Ravenscroft, REACH's interim executive director, says that while one-time support can be vital for emergencies, their budget counseling is one of the most effective ways REACH makes a difference. Ravenscroft notes that changing one's living circumstances isn't always as simple as getting a higher-paying job. "We provide a class that helps individuals with managing their finances," she says. "We follow up a month later to address questions and see the progress they have made."

REACH's long-term program, Transitions to Independence (TIP), helps individuals at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty level to advance their skills and education. REACH provides qualified applicants with a case manager who follows their journey, sometimes for multiple years. TIP support can include education assistance, transportation assistance and financial support related to the participant's unique goals. Last year, TIP served 1,041 individuals.

REACH operates three offices (downtown Colorado Springs, Fountain and Calhan) with just five staff members and a shifting team of volunteers. It's not an easy endeavor, but Ravenscroft says the quality and dedication of the staff, and volunteers (who put in 2,400 hours in 2016), are an integral part of REACH's success.

Because so many of REACH's services rely on financial assistance, monetary support is key. REACH receives its funding from El Paso County, city grants, FEMA, a United Way partnership, private foundations, donations and annual events. Programs like Give! allow REACH to expand its outreach efforts and get its work known in the community without spending money on unnecessary expenses.

In addition to financial support, Ravenscroft says REACH needs non-perishable food items, particularly for the food pantry at the Fountain location. Hygiene items, toilet paper and diapers are also highly useful, as is winter clothing, coats in particular.

Ravenscroft says that the need for REACH programs continues to grow each year, with factors such as rising housing costs and static wages forcing more individuals to seek assistance.

"Even with the support of so many nonprofits in El Paso County, there are still many people in need," says Ravenscroft. "We want to provide that help and do it in a way that allows them dignity and self-sufficiency."

See reachpikespeak.org for more information.

— Bridgett Harris

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