During the winter of 1994, in response to the urgent need for a homeless emergency shelter after the loss of several homeless individuals who died of exposure in El Paso County, Ray and Lilly Tullius open the doors of what today is the Opportunity Center for the Homeless.
In the beginning, the emergency shelter served male individuals only, and it didn’t have any kitchen facilities. Our primary goal, at the onset, was to protect homeless individuals from extreme temperatures. When donations allowed it, coffee and donuts were made available to anyone seeking warmth and safety.
Eight years later a kitchen was habilitated by a local church and free meals were served 3 times a day. What started as an empty warehouse has evolved from a warm and secure place to spend the night, to a full recovery service program for the most vulnerable individuals in our community. Thru the years the Opportunity Center for the Homeless added programs and services to help single men, women, veterans, families, the elderly and frail, and those marginalized by the society. By providing emergency shelter, permanent and transitional housing, on-site medical and mental health services, intensive case management employing evidence based practices, and the knowledge of those that are homeless we created a positive, caring environment, where promoting the innate dignity of every person is the highest concern. Many do not realize that over half of our staff has a lived experience with homelessness.
Today, with an expanded mission and progressive programs, the Opportunity Center for the Homeless is an innovator in transforming lives. Our platforms help single homeless individuals, veterans, and families to achieve self-sufficiency and sustain more productive lives.
Solution focused services, in addition to on-site preventive medical and mental health services are available for the all. We also offer them transportation, showers, mailing address, backpack room, laundry facilities, and clothes.
Each year, over 120,000 meals are served in our kitchens, and over 110,000 nights of lodging are provided in our housing facilities.
We currently operate four emergency shelters, and seven permanent and transitional living centers, with attached support services. (hyperlink to SERVICES)
What sets us apart from other organizations helping homeless individuals in our region is one simple fact. We turn no one away! We know there are many wonderful organizations helping those in need, but homeless persons coming to our Shelters receive services by walk-in or referral 24 hours day, 365 days/year.
In our different facilities, we receive the least among the homeless including the mentally ill, elderly, addicted, and immigrant; police and hospitals even drop off homeless at our shelters. On average over a year, we serve over 120,000 meals and provide over 110,000 evenings of lodging. We counsel over 2,000 men, women, families, and youth, and transition over 900 into work, training, and school programs.