Westside Pioneer Home Page

New homeless 'action plan' featured at Westside Center town hall Oct. 17

Oct. 9, 2018; updated Dec. 9
       A town hall spotlighting the new "Homelessness Response Action Plan" is scheduled by the City of Colorado Springs at the Westside Community Center Wednesday, Oct. 17.
       The event will start at 5:30 p.m., with an intent to "explain, clarify and gain feedback from the community,” said Ted Skroback of City Communications.
       The Community Center is at 1628 W. Bijou St.
       The plan includes a suggestion to establish volunteer “Ambassador Teams” in both the downtown and Old Colorado City to ease issues for the homeless and their
A person in a sleeping bag uses the Prospector Statue (seen from the back) as a kind of windbreak this month in the small park at Highway 24 and 21st Street. Installed in 1999, the statue is meant to represent the pioneering spirit of the early miners in the region.
Westside Pioneer photo
impacts on regular citizens. (See Goal 8 in the final paragraph.)
       From the outset of the town hall, people will be divided into small groups, Skroback outlined.
       The event will kick off with two speeches, he said. First will be Councilmember Richard Skorman (whose District 3 includes the Westside), then city homeless coordinator Andy Phelps (who wrote the Action Plan).
       “But we want a bulk of the time to go to the small groups discussing amongst themselves, and coming up with group feedback,” Skroback said. “Andy and city staff will walk around to help answer any questions, and there will be time at the end to hear from each group and answer questions from the crowd. We really want this to be an interactive and engaging meeting to get the best feedback we can from the public.”
       Seven pages in length, the plan is posted on the city's recently created website at coloradosprings.gov/helpcos.
       The document does not provide funding details.
       Its introduction begins as follows:
       “Homelessness-related issues are among the most frequent complaints that the city receives. Our community is concerned about the health and safety of those surviving outside as well as the substantial impact illegal camping has on our environment. Although not a homeless service provider, the City of Colorado Springs remains committed to championing
Richard Skorman (left), Colorado Springs City Council president and representative of District 3 (including much of the Westside), answers questions from the audience with Andy Phelps, the city homelessness prevention and response coordinator, at a previous public meeting in the Westside Community Center.
Westside Pioneer file photo
strategies that prevent and reduce homelessness in our community by assessing gaps across landscapes, planning, building awareness, convening stakeholder groups, identifying public-private partnerships and leveraging resources.”
       UPDATE, Dec. 9: The Action Plan originally continued eight goals. The city added two more in December, and since the list was first outlined in this article, numbers 9 and 10 have have been added here for reference purposes.
       In all, the Action Plan describes 10 goals, titled as follows (quoted material from the plan):
       “1. Continue educating the public via the HelpCOS Campaign.” The “hub” of the campaign is the website above, which is meant to “educate the public in how to most effectively give assistance to those in need.”
       “2. Add an additional 370 low-barrier shelter beds (contingent on special appropriation approval).” The term, “low barrier' means people will not be turned away even if it's evident they're on drugs or alcohol.
       “3. Implement a Homeless Outreach Court.” An unofficial alternative to Municipal Court, this activity "will address the root causes of the offending behavior and empower individuals to take concrete steps to move out of homelessness" and, in the process, “reduce the strain on Colorado Springs City services.”
       “4. Establish a Veteran Incentive Fund.” Part of an effort to reach “functional zero” in terms of “military veterans experiencing homelessness.”
       “5. Develop a Comprehensive Affordable Housing Plan.” Based on findings that “the current supply of affordable and accessible housing is inadequate to meet our current community demand.”
       “6. Support funding for homeless work program with area nonprofit.” “People working in this program will pick up trash in our parks, along our trail system and clean up illegal campsites” (ideally through a nonprofit agency).
       "7. Add Neighborhood Services staff (contingent on budget approval)." Defined as “two full-time maintenance technicians to work with CSPD's Homeless Outreach Team.”
       "8. Develop concept for a HelpCOS Ambassador Team for Downtown and Old Colorado City areas." Part of “persistent, coordinated, and creative outreach efforts” to hook up homeless people with services and also to “help tourists and shoppers feel more comfortable downtown and in Old Colorado City.”
       "9. The City will collaborate with local service providers to add shelter options for families experiencing homelessness." One problem, according to the plan, is that "Colorado Springs has no low barrier family shelter and has limited options that allow families to stay together."
       "10. The Colorado Springs Police Department will increase response to issues involving homelessness." According to the plan, "for 2019, CSPD plans to train more officers" to help the department's existing Homeless Outreach Team.

Westside Pioneer article
(Community: Ongoing Issues)

Would you like to respond to this article? The Westside Pioneer welcomes letters at editor@westsidepioneer.com. (Click here for letter-writing criteria.)