A shining example of some of the best ways to help homeless people is the Center of Opportunity — a former 1980s hotel tower surrounded by new buildings. They are filled with housing and services with room to grow.

Run by the nonprofit Gospel Rescue Mission, the center has given thousands of people temporary and short-term housing; got them on their feet with meals, health care and education, and provided access to several government and private agency services.

“It’s going to dramatically impact the homeless community,” comments Lisa Chastain, executive director of the Gospel Rescue Mission.

The statistics are impressive so far: The Center of Opportunity celebrated its one-year anniversary on June 3, 2020, and as of that date, it had served 218,816 meals; provided 87,744 bed nights; helped 3,127 individuals; 227 of those found employment; 98 gained permanent housing; and 57 completed addiction recovery programs.

The hotel, formerly known as the Holiday Inn Holidome at 4550 S. Palo Verde Road, has gone through a transformation in service of people experiencing homelessness.

The ballroom is an emergency shelter. The restaurant maintains table service for hungry homeless people. Former hotel suites are now emergency shelter for women and children. Beds also are available for men. The lobby area is an intake center where needs can be assessed and information on services given.

Several newly constructed buildings fulfill the second phase of the vision developed with property developer and owner H.S. Lopez and his family foundation.

The structures house a welcome center, space for the state’s Department of Economic Security and 32 service organizations, a job training center and a gym, exercise room and library for use by center residents.

El Rio Health has space to provide medical and dental services. There’s 5,000 square feet to collect, store and distribute donations to lowincome families.

La Frontera Arizona is converting 250 hotel rooms into 100 permanent housing units for low-income families.

“Phase two is really going to change the dynamic,” Chastain says. “It’s one thing to be providing the services that we have been. It will be quite an amazing investment into the community.”

And the organization and foundation aren’t done. There’s a five-acre parcel that Lopez is planning to purchase. Chastain explains it would be put to good use as transitional housing and more recovery services for homeless people with challenging issues.

“When it comes to the Center of Opportunity, there are no excuses to not get them back on their feet on a positive path.”

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