Two residential treatment facilities in Colorado Springs may close after losing federal funding for hosting Bible studies at the centers.
Gospel Shelters for Women, which operates Liza’s Place and Hope Home, lost $25,000 a year in federal funding for mandating clients participate in the Bible study group, according to reports.
The shelters offer services to women who are homeless, mentally ill or addicted to drugs and alcohol.
“I think the Christian aspect is what allows the ladies to have something to lean on when they get in a jam,” said Marilyn Vyzourek, founder and executive director of Gospel Shelters for Women, to the Colorado Springs Gazette. “It helps them in counseling, and I’ve seen ladies change their lives, and I’m not going to take the Bible studies away.”
By making the Bible study groups mandatory, the two shelters do not qualify the government grants, which were allocated through the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“Organizations that receive direct HUD funds may not engage in inherently religious activities, such as worship, religious instruction, or proselytizing, as a part of the program or services funded by HUD,” said HUD on its website.
It is unclear why the funding was only recently pulled. Gospel Shelters for Women never hid its faith-based programming at the shelters.
The company’s website prominently displays its mission statement, which is “to help homeless, previously incarcerated women with programs of restoration through the love of Jesus, Bible truths and self-discipline.”
Bob Holmes, executive director of Homeward Pikes Peak, which helps ensure proper use of the HUD money allocated to agencies in the area, told the Colorado Springs Gazette that the oversight agencies believed the Bible study groups were optional.
“We did not know it was mandated,” said Holmes. “We’d been told originally by her that it was being run in a secular fashion, and we only recently were informed by a client that was not the case. We checked into it, and it was validated.”
The HUD funding accounts for about 12.5 percent of the group’s operating budget, according to reports. The group also receives funding from other grants and from operating a thrift store in Colorado Springs.
“We’ve started to lay people off,” Vyzourek said. “We’re cutting back, and consolidating Hope Home and Liza’s Place. We do a great service for the community, and I am in danger of closing my doors at this point.”
However, the federal guidelines for receiving HUD funds are clear.
“Participation in religious activities must be voluntary,” HUD said on its website. “HUD-funded services must be open to all who are eligible for them, whether they are members of your church, denomination, or religion; or not.”