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Step in Colorado Springs

On Friday, May 24th, Step closed on a property in Colorado Springs - launching the first replication of Step's program to help men overcome addiction, serve hundreds more men in the coming years, and continue to expand into communities where the help is needed most.

The Gazette wrote an article on Step's journey to the Springs:


It was Nov. 3, 2020, when Derrik Bunyon walked into Step Denver.

He'd spent much of the previous two years living on the streets of the Mile High City, using alcohol and drugs to numb the pain after his mother died in 2018. He had been living with her, but found himself without a permanent home after she died. He felt hopeless, unsure how to change his life.

Until one snowy fall morning.

"I know it now to be a higher power doing for me what I couldn't do for myself," said Bunyon, a 29-year-old program alum working at Step Denver as a recovery support manager. "... I woke up one morning and I was covered in snow. When I went to sleep, it hadn't been snowing. I shook my head and said to myself, 'I cannot do another Colorado winter on the streets.'"

He spent the weekend at a detox center before he arrived at Step Denver, a men's-only rehabilitation center located a couple blocks away from Coors Field in downtown Denver, with no possessions, no identification — not even the shirt on his back.

He had resolve, though. Determination. Something he didn't have all the other times he'd tried to get clean.

"This time it felt different. I knew I wanted to change, and I was willing to take some suggestions," Bunyon said.

And Step Denver was different, too.

For 41 years the nonprofit, housing-first residential recovery program has operated in Denver, helping thousands of men without a place to live, without financial means and with nowhere else to turn get sober, stay sober and make permanent, positive, long-lasting changes in their lives.

"Everyone we serve admittedly is suffering from the disease of addiction, has lost everything, and is homeless because of that," said Paul Scudo, Step's chief executive officer. "We teach them that addiction is a disease, but there is a program of recovery, which if engaged upon on a daily basis, can keep that disease in remission and allow them to rebuild the other areas of their lives."

Step Springs

After five years of planning, the Step program is expanding southward.

On Friday, the nonprofit closed on its purchase of a building in Colorado Springs, located at 4525 Northpark Drive near Garden of the Gods Road just east of Interstate 25. Step officials will transform it into their primary Colorado Springs facility, where they anticipate guiding as many as 800 men in the program's first five years into permanent sobriety and happier, healthier, more productive lives, Scudo said.

"I'm excited not only for the Step program and its philosophy and its modality to be shared in another community — because it is different — I'm excited to help the men here who need help. I'm excited to help the Colorado Springs community be a better place for all of its residents," he said.

"We are coming at the request of the community," from government officials across El Paso County to major private foundations, prominent community figures and other service providers, Scudo added. "We believe we are filling a gap and a need to help this community in any way we can."

Springs Rescue Mission Board Member Alison Murray said at a May 8 Colorado Springs Planning Commission meeting that her nonprofit, the city's largest shelter, welcomes the Step program in Colorado Springs because it will help fill a transitional housing need locally. Affordable housing in the city has become difficult to find, but even more difficult to find is transitional housing, she said.

"We need to be having these gaps filled, and having organizations like Step who can really make a difference," Murray said.

A 2022 Point in Time survey, a yearly census to help determine how many homeless people are living in the community on any given night, showed there were 620 homeless men living in Colorado Springs, making up 74% of the total homeless population, Scudo said.

Those figures are just a sampling and don't include those people Scudo calls "the hidden homeless," those who don't make themselves visible to the public eye; those who move from homeless shelter to homeless shelter; those who are sleeping on couches at their family's or friends' houses; those about to come out of probation or parole with nowhere to live when they're released.

Studies by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration indicate more than 80% of people who are homeless are also addicted to drugs or alcohol. The addiction either caused them to become homeless or they got addicted after they became homeless, Scudo said.

"The point is, they can't get out of homelessness because they're addicted to drugs and alcohol," he said.

When it is complete, the 13,700-square foot building on Northpark Drive will serve as Step Springs' primary facility and will house upwards of 50 men who will live there for between nine months to a year as they complete the first three phases of the four-phase program. Here they will learn life skills like budgeting, cleaning, grocery shopping, cooking and others.

During phase four, the men will move into a free-standing, single-family sober living home.

Nonprofit leaders are now working on a development plan for the primary building and finalizing a construction timeline. They also continue efforts to raise the last approximately $1 million needed out of the total $3 million cost of construction. Step accepts no government money, and is funded primarily by philanthropic donors.

Scudo expects Step Springs will officially open and be operational in about a year and a half. It will take approximately another year to fundraise, purchase and open the sober living homes, he said. In the meantime, Step will work with other sober living home programs in Colorado Springs.

"It's been a labor of love for the past many years," Scudo said of the Step Springs effort. "Now the real work starts."

People who wish to give funds to the Step Springs program can donate online at Click on the "Give" button on the homepage and select the "Donate Now" tab. Donors can dedicate their gift to Step Springs in the comment section of the donation form.

Donors can also send checks to: Step Denver, c/o Step Springs, 2029 Larimer Street, Denver, CO 80205.

Step's model

Step's residential program cannot and will not be all things to all people, Scudo said. It's specific and specialized, serving only men who do not have severe mental or physical health disabilities, and who indicate that because of their addiction they are homeless.

The nonprofit has a strong referral network to help people it cannot serve find the assistance they need, and vice-versa, he said.

Step's program model emphasizes four pillars: sobriety, work, accountability and community. The men must be and remain sober; they must have full-time jobs; they must learn how to be independent, learn financial literacy as well as how to cook, clean, navigate the transportation system and more; they are held accountable; and they must learn how to be good neighbors.

That's why the program has been so successful in Denver, Scudo said. Unlike many 30-, 60- or 90-day programs, the men are learning and doing the work for themselves at Step.

Another crucial reason for its success is the peer-to-peer culture it stresses, Bunyon said. Most of Step's employees have experienced homelessness and addiction themselves. They know what program residents are experiencing because they've been there, too, and can connect on that level in ways their families, doctors and the courts system cannot, he said.

Expanding into Colorado Springs "is a unique opportunity" for the men there, Bunyon said.

"Anybody who feels like they're hopeless and that there's no way out — there is one, and we have it at Step. We can help people learn how to live again."