The City of Colorado Springs is working hand-in-hand with local non-profits and service providers to make a positive impact on homelessness-related issues in the city.
The City’s 2019 Colorado Springs Homelessness Initiative, provides a boots-on-the-ground one-year action plan to address homelessness-related issues in Colorado Springs strategically.
Homelessness Prevention and Outreach Coordinator for the City Andy Phelps and the Colorado Springs Police Department's Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) work together to activate the Initiative as a road map to provide vital resource education to those experiencing homelessness and help to protect the welfare of the neighborhoods where they live.
A Two-Fold Approach
Even with the aid of local charities and shelters, it costs communities nationwide around $58,000 per year to support one chronically homeless individual. Along with financial concern, there are environmental and health impacts on our community. Stormwater pollution caused by debris and waste from homeless camps is especially damaging. Local citizens often express their frustration at the negative impacts of homelessness on local parks, creeks and neighborhoods.
For those experiencing homelessness, there are obvious risks to health and safety. When temperatures dip below freezing, the danger increases greatly, especially for those who are unwilling to seek shelter.
Phelps says one obstacle for permanently lifting people out of homelessness in Colorado Springs is a lack of affordable housing. He notes that "this lack of safe and stable housing makes it that much more difficult to navigate the social services available in our community." Despite the challenges, Phelps is optimistic. In particular, he points to the 2019 Colorado Springs Homelessness Initiative, which he feels is setting attainable goals with measurable impact.
Among the pillars of the plan:
- Expanded homeless outreach efforts by HOT to provide citizens with information and referrals that help them find permanent housing and independence.
- A unique Homeless Outreach court program where nonprofit caseworkers work in conjunction with the Municipal Court to address the specific needs of each person. This reduces homelessness and relieves some of the strain placed on City services.
- At-risk families now have more shelter options and the number of low-barrier shelter beds has significantly increased. This allows CSPD to better enforce camping bans, protect our environment, and ensure no one in our community is forced to sleep outside.
The work is demanding, but Phelps and HOT are doing their part to end homelessness.
Go to HelpCOS.org to read the 2019 Colorado Springs Homelessness Initiative and find ways you can donate your time and resources.