As of early October this year, the city of Colorado Springs pitched an eight-point plan to help ease the extreme homelessness issue which we are currently facing. Within this plan, the goal would be to add 370 “low-barrier” shelter beds, change the policy of sobriety within shelters to one which is behavior-based, implement a “homelessness outreach court”, facilitate a non-profit led program to hire the homeless, hire three more Neighborhood Services officers to clean up illegal homeless camps, seek donations for a risk mitigation fund to help house homeless veterans, create HelpCOS Ambassador Teams to do homeless outreach and develop a comprehensive plan to create more affordable housing.
“I’m looking for things we can do within the law to improve not only the situation for the homeless,” announces Mayor John Suthers “But the community at large” (Colorado Springs pitches plan to ease homelessness, Colorado Springs Gazette, 10/9).
The entire project is expected to cost approximately $2 million in total and has an anticipated completion date of December 31st, 2019. HelpCOS is attempting to support fundraising for the project by taking donations through their website to go towards shelter beds.
Despite these efforts, homelessness has been a long standing issue in the Springs, and solutions to the problem may not be that simple. Anthony Siracusa, the Engaged Learning Specialist at the CCE, spoke out about the many different factors contributing to this crisis.
“This is a multifaceted and complicated issue, one which requires a distinction between houselessness and homelessness” states Siracusa. “While many are addicts, veterans and others who don’t have proper access to mental health resources, there are also the cases of LGBTQ+ youth thrown out of their homes and victims of domestic violence.”
Colorado Springs is expected to be short 26,000 units by 2019. Averaging 500 new affordable housing units a year, even with the city’s new plan for action, a couple hundred beds can’t quite fix the underlying issues which affect the growing homeless population. Although homelessness is often addressed as one singular concern, it is constructed upon many different issues fabricated into the culture of our city. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, domestic violence rates are actually rising, and are just one of the causes, along with a lack of resources for veterans, addicts and the mentally ill and LGBT+ minors who no longer have a place to stay. While local organizations like Concrete Couch and Greccio Housing are targeting some of these specific issues, there’s still a long way to go in eliminating the major causes of the housing crisis.
“You’ve never heard me say at any point we’re going to eliminate homelessness, because we’re not,” says Mayor Suthers. “But I think we owe it to our citizens, whether they’re homeless or they’re not, to do the best we can” (Colorado Springs pitches plan to ease homelessness, Colorado Springs Gazette, 10/9).
Written by Susie Dummit