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EDITOR'S DESK: Solving the bum problem... the sequel

By Kenyon Jordan

       My recent column, “How to solve the bum problem,” has drawn the largest response of any of the 500-plus I've penned since Therese and I started the Westside Pioneer in January 2004. (You can find it at this link.)
       I realize bums/transients/homeless - whatever terms you want to use - are a hot-button issue, but I've delved into it before and didn't attract this kind of feedback (which has been mostly supportive - thank you).
       I think it was different this time because I actually sought to fix things. Frankly, outside of my insulting the litigious ACLU, bleeding-heart social enablers, political trendiness and slackers

of all shapes and sizes, I believed my proposal worthy of bipartisan support. Doesn't it make perfect sense that the definition of insanity should apply to able-bodied individuals who repeatedly defy the city's no-public-camping law, abuse drugs and alcohol, set fires, leave toxic messes behind, shun employment and spurn any assistance in shedding that ultimately suicidal lifestyle?
       Beyond that, wouldn't it be great if, using that insanity definition, beneficial laws could pass, possibly followed by a public-private partnership that would revitalize our mental institutions so as to aid such desperate folks… maybe even lead them to become productive members of the community?
       In other words, move the camp-or-no-camp decision away from those who do it into the hands of those who suffer from it and (and pay for it)!
       Some people may call me insensitive (and they have), but I don't particularly like being at risk of another major conflagration (hello, Bancroft bandshell fire of January 2017, the Manitou Incline Fire of 2007 and multiple grass blazes last winter off Martin Luther King Bypass, from which we were saved only by the skills of our Fire
A Fountain Creek cleanup from 2009 is shown just west of Eighth Street.
Westside Pioneer file photo
Department), a disease outbreak and continued loss of amenities (such as the Bancroft pavilion and a sense of safety using parks and trails).
       Not that my idea is gaining traction anywhere. Elected officials and prospective candidates clearly think the public doesn't care that much (except for Don Knight, the only member of Colorado Springs City Council to urge a court appeal last year instead of meekly rescinding the city's panhandling laws). The Council of Neighbors and Organizations (CONO) has shown no interest either, even though I'Il bet that if it surveyed its members it might be surprised by what comes back. But thank you, Welling Clark, for at least raising the subject at the recent Avenue Task Force meeting.
       In any case, it was at that meeting that a high-ranking Colorado Springs Police official told me, in so many words (and in a reasonably patient tone), that I really have no idea of what insanity is.
       To illustrate, the official provided the example of a local man who makes a habit of sleeping on public benches (despite encouragement otherwise). At night, he throws a tarp over himself. When he has to relieve himself, he does so under the bench. And yet, when the cops recently had the man evaluated by a mental health professional, he was deemed sane, the official reported. With no place else for him to go, the city lets him have his public bench.
       Let me give you an example of my own - one with a different sort of twist, but that readers ought to be aware of. Every year around this time, El Paso County
In roughly the same area as the cleanup photo above (west of Eighth Street), an illegal camp is seen in a more recent photo, taken in March 2017 off Garner Street. The Fountain Creek channel and Highway 24 are in the background.
Westside Pioneer file photo
Parks sponsors what it rousingly titles the “Creek Week Cleanup.” Media around the region receive press releases enthusiastically urging public-spirited volunteers to form teams and pick up trash along Fountain Creek. Funny thing about those press releases, though. They don't say a word about the dozens of bum camps along the creek, or what the volunteers are supposed to do about them.
       In previous years, County Parks had the CSPD HOT team clear out the camps in advance. Well, now there are so many, and with the ACLU accusing the city of hate crimes, apparently it's bad form to have our local gendarmes go to such extremes. That explains the answer I got from County Parks - that the cleanup crews are being told to avoid the camps altogether. OK, then what kind of cleanup is it?
       It may seem odd, but I don't think you'll read any of that in the marijuana-profiting Independent or its vassal newspapers (the Colorado Springs Business Journal and Pikes Peak Bulletin) or the Broadmoor-owned Gazette and the “community” papers it now controls (the Cheyenne Edition, Woodmen Edition, Tri-Lakes Tribune and Pikes Peak Courier). However, you can expect to see in those papers sweetly sappy stories about the new "homeless campus” downtown, with its showers, washing machines, dryers, free computers and large TV… Say, you don't suppose that having such a wonderful facility might lure even more transients to Colorado Springs? Just asking.
       So why is it that the little old Westside Pioneer, with a staff so skeletal you can count it on two fingers, is the only publication being a trouble-maker about the worsening bum issue?
       Maybe that's another definition of insanity that should be looked into.

(Posted 9/24/17; Opinion: Editor's Desk)

       Kenyon Jordan is the editor of the Westside Pioneer.

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