Homelessness Prevention and Response

Man Who Asks for a Smile Reunited with His Family

You may recognize the man standing second from the left in this photo. His name is Jacob. He is the guy with the homemade “SMILE” sign with a cut-out for his smiling face. He frequents the area around Acacia Park downtown.

 

For the last four years, Jacob's family hadn't seen that smile. They didn't know where he was. Trying not to assume the worst, they failthfully googled his name day after day with no results. That changed when Gazette reporter Conrad Swanson quoted Jacob in his May 30, 2018 article about the City's HelpCOS Campaign.

Filled with cautious hope, Jacob's mom called Conrad at the Gazette. She asked if he could help her contact her son. Conrad enlisted the help of the City's Homelessness Prevention and Response Coordinator, Andrew Phelps. Andrew recognized the name and found Jacob staying at the Springs Rescue Mission.

Over the next several months Jacob's family sent care packages with warm, clean clothes, hand-warmers, new gloves, snacks.  Andrew delivered them to Jacob. Then Jacob and his parents started talking on the phone each week.

This week Jacob's parents came to see him. They met at Poor Richard's with Council President and proprietor Richard Skorman. There were smiles, hugs, and lots of catching up.  Andrew brought information to help connect Jacob to housing programs, disability benefits, and resources in the City’s Continuum of Care.

Andrew says he's hopeful for Jacob. “Jacob is a very resilient person and I am optimistic that we can get him connected to available resources in our community. What we couldn’t provide him with were family connections. Now he has that again. I’m very optimistic that with some assistance navigating the system, we can get him on a path to housing and self-sufficiency."

His family is hopeful too.

Volunteers Needed for the 2019 Point-In-Time Count

Volunteers Needed

The 2019 Point-In-Time Count will take place on Monday, January 28th, 2019. The Pikes Peak Continuum of Care is recruiting volunteers to help conduct interviews with our neighbors experiencing homelessness in emergency shelters, in parks and cars, along rivers, at service providers, libraries, and any other places where people spend time. Over 150 volunteers are needed!

The Point in Time Survey is being led by Community Health Partnership (CHP) in Colorado Springs and El Paso County. The Point in Time count generates a snapshot of homelessness on a single night, and raises public awareness, promotes collaboration, provides needed data, and helps us apply for increased housing funds for the community.

A volunteer training is required and will help you learn how to administer the survey and give you time to practice with other staff and volunteers.

Requirements:

  • Attend a two-hour training
  • Ability to walk and/or stand for long periods of time
  • Agree to sign a confidentiality agreement and keep all survey information confidential
  • Commit to showing up at survey site regardless of weather
  • Feel comfortable speaking and interacting with people experiencing homelessness

Benefits: 

Make a difference in your community by interviewing those experiencing homelessness in our community to provide needed data to evaluate and develop plans, services and programs to decrease homelessness in Colorado Springs and El Paso County. Get to know your neighbors who are experiencing homelessness, and see local agencies at work!

Questions:  Jennifer Mariano, PPCoC Program Manager, Jennifer.mariano@ppchp.org  or 719-632-5094 X121

CSPD Officer, Homeward Pikes Peak Worker Receive Commander’s Commendation

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -  HOT team Officer Jeremy Winn and Homeward Pikes Peak outreach worker Jansen Howard today received Commander’s Commendations from CSPD for their work connecting individuals experiencing homelessness with local services. The event was held at the Gold Hill Substation.

Winn and Howard work together in a new program launched by HOT, which pairs an outreach worker from a local non-profit with the uniformed police.  Currently, the outreach worker spends one day a week riding with the HOT team and one day with the Downtown Area Response Team (DART).

“They work together hand-in-hand,” said Lieutenant Mike Lux.  “Homeward Pikes Peak has a counseling service for substance abuse, and CSPD came to them and asked if we could have a counselor ride with the HOT team.  The HOT team does a great job reaching out to people, but sometimes people are resistant to police officers wearing uniforms. Jansen is our connection between ourselves and the homeless community. Where they might not be as receptive to us, she reaches out to a number of people, gets them placed and connects with them, sometimes much better than we can. She works hand in hand with us.”

Today’s award specifically recognized the success of the pair in moving a homeless woman from the streets of downtown to an appropriate facility where she is now receiving care for both medical and mental health issues.

“Both Officer Winn and Jansen worked on her,” said Lux. “They convinced her to voluntarily commit herself to get medical treatment and to get some mental health treatment. That was a job that is going to save the department and the community a lot of time that we spent on this person. We were going out to talk to this lady and answering calls for service a couple times a day. Think about that in a year; that’s going to save us a huge amount and also help her.”

Due to a successful grant application, Homeward Pikes Peak expects to double its staffing for this program, which will embed an outreach worker with a CSPD Team for four days each week. Lt. Lux thinks this is great news for the community, “Every department should have a HOT team and every HOT team should have a counselor riding.”  

City, CSPD to Convene Service Providers Ahead of Quarry Camp Cleanup

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -   A week before the posted clean-up date for the “Quarry” camp southeast of downtown, the City of Colorado Springs, together with the Colorado Springs Police Department, have coordinated an outreach event aimed at connecting individuals experiencing homelessness with local non-profits which offer shelter, counseling, health care and mental or substance abuse assistance.

“We are fortunate in Colorado Springs to have a number of well-qualified agencies that are prepared to offer services that can make a difference,” said Andrew Phelps, homelessness outreach and prevention coordinator for the City of Colorado Springs. “I’ve said before that camping is not a safe or dignified option, nor is it a legal one. By connecting the campers at the Quarry with qualified service providers, we hope we can get people out of the elements and connect them with services that can actually set them on the path to permanent housing.”

Among the non-profits providing outreach on Wednesday are the Salvation Army and the Springs Rescue Mission, which are working together to add a combined 320 additional low barrier shelter beds. The Rescue Mission’s 150 new beds will open on December 10. The camp has been posted for cleanup on December 11.

Other non-profits participating are Aspen Pointe, Catholic Charities, Coalition for Compassion and Action, the Community Health Partnership, the El Paso County Department of Human Services, Homeward Pikes Peak, Peak Vista, RMHS Homes for All Veterans, Urban Peak and Westside Cares.

Also, in the wake of the announcement from the State Health Department, the El Paso Department of Public Health will be in attendance offering Hepatitis A vaccinations to anyone who may have been exposed to the virus, which has recently appeared in the community.

City Releases Homeless Action Plan, Re-Vamps HelpCOS Giving Case

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – From the base of one of four donated Lamar billboards displaying the message, “Handouts don’t help,” the City of Colorado Springs announced its newly-released Homelessness Action Plan. The eight-item plan aims to make progress in addressing homelessness by improving sheltering and housing options, creating new programs around homeless work opportunities, veteran homelessness, how the  municipal court interacts with this population and establishing an ambassador program in downtown and Old Colorado City.

HelpCOS to Benefit Rescue Mission & Salvation Army

The City also doubled down on its HelpCOS education and fund-raising campaign, announcing that 100% of funds raised would go to the Salvation Army and Springs Rescue Mission for purposes of expanding their low barrier sheltering capabilities and services. People can give to the campaign and directly support these service providers by texting HelpCOS to 667873 or by visiting HelpCOS.org.

“By giving to HelpCOS, you will give shelter to homeless individuals battling the cold. At the same time, you will empower our law enforcement agencies to enforce the camping ban and protect our community assets including our parks, waterways and rights of way,” said Mayor John Suthers. “Giving to HelpCOS is truly an impactful donation and one that will much more positively impact the issue than handing money to a panhandler. This is the message we want to get out.”

Public Input Opportunities

The City of Colorado Springs together with City Council President Richard Skorman, will host three town hall meetings to gather public input on the plan. Those meetings will be October 17 at the Westside Community Center and October 25 at City Council Chambers. A third event will be scheduled in November. The City will also gather feedback through its survey mechanism, Speak Up, in the coming weeks.

The Homelessness Action Plan

The homelessness action plan’s eight items are as follow. More detailed descriptions are available in the plan document, attached.

  1.      Continue educating the public via the HelpCOS campaign.
  2.      Add an additional 370 low barrier shelter beds
  3.      Implement a Homeless Outreach Court
  4.      Establish a veteran housing incentive fund
  5.      Develop a Comprehensive Affordable Housing plan
  6.      Support funding for a homeless work program with area non-profit(s)
  7.      Add NeighborhoodA geographic sub-area within the city that contains but is not limited to residential land uses. The extent of a neighborhood is variable and may be defined by tradition, organizational boundaries, period of building and development, or subdivision patterns. Neighborhood boundaries may include such features as major streets or other physical elements. Services staff to aid in cleaning up illegal camps
  8.      Develop “HelpCOS Ambassador Team” for downtown and Old Colorado City areas

“The goal of this plan is progress,” said Suthers. “I am not so naïve to think that we will fully end homelessness. This is a complex issue facing cities nationwide. That said, we owe it to all our residents, homeless and housed alike, to take steps to mitigate the situation, and I think this plan is a good starting point.”

The full plan is available on the website.

Homelessness in the Springs


Introduction

Homelessness-related issues have been some of the most difficult issues to face our community. Because homelessness is a complex issue caused by many different factors, there is no one easy solution. For this reason, the City supports the Pikes Peak Continuum of Care, a consortium of stakeholder organizations with expertise in specific areas of homelessness, to provide services and to advise the City on the issue.

The issue of homelessness is not unique to Colorado Springs, but is an issue that affects communities across the nation. Our homeless numbers per capita are average in comparison to other similarly populated areas across the country. That said, we recognize the valid concerns raised by our residents, and assure you we are working hard to address the issue on multiple levels.

As you can imagine, we are hearing from advocates for the homeless who believe the City should be doing more to assist this population, and who display sympathy for those affected by homelessness. They are concerned that some in our community have no place to live, can’t find housing or jobs, don’t have a place to go the bathroom, take a shower, dump their garbage, or get mental health or substance abuse help. They are concerned that some in our community work or have housing vouchers but still can’t find a place to live.  We appreciate and recognize this view.

We are also hearing from those in our community who are upset about trash, safety of our parks, camping on public property, illegal fires, and crime in their neighborhoods. Many of these individuals feel that the City, the County, the Faith Community and the Homeless agencies do too much enabling and that many people abuse the system. These are also valid concerns. Finding the balance in providing services to those experiencing homelessness while respecting the needs and concerns of all residents remains the City’s priority.

Perhaps the most frequent complaints we hear have to do with the number of panhandlers on our streets corners and people camping on public property. While we can limit activity on medians where occupation presents a safety risk to pedestrians or drivers, panhandling itself is protected under the First Amendment. Further, heeding the direction of a Department of Justice brief written in 2015, our police force will not relocate individuals camping on non-park public land unless there is a shelter space available. While our community is committed to addressing the concerns of its residents, it can and will only do so within the confines of the law.     

CURRENT NUMBERS

In January 2018, the annual Point in Time count showed the total number of people experiencing homelessness in our community to be 1,551, an increase of 9.6% (136 people) since 2017.  This number includes those living outside, in emergency shelters, or in transitional housing. 513 of the 1,551 were living outside at that time. This number is considered to be a conservative estimate as counting those experiencing homelessness is difficult to do accurately. The increase of 136 individuals counted may be partially due to improved counting efforts, including 50% more volunteers since 2017.

We also know from the 2018 “Point in Time” count that 61% of the individuals we contacted through our survey this year listed their last permanent address as being within El Paso County, indicating that most of those experiencing homelessness here were last housed locally.

Providers added 217 shelter beds in the community in the past year. There were 652 shelter beds occupied – bringing 116 more people in out of the cold and into emergency shelter than the previous year. Low-barrier options, such as the beds provided at the Springs Rescue Mission, were 100% occupied on the night of the “Point in Time” count.

Vacancies continue to exist in cold weather shelter with minimal services and in programs dedicated to special populations with higher barriers, such as families with children. Data continues to show that low-barrier shelter with on-site services such as showers, meals, healthcare, and case management works to move people off the street.

Give Resources

Ways to Help

Here are some ways you can HelpCOS and know you are making a difference:

Warming Shelter Overflow Volunteers  

Volunteers are needed at both of our low barrier shelters. Stay overnight or part of the night to give out blankets, coffee, breakfast in the morning, and a kind word, and a friendly face. Volunteer opportunities are available at the Springs Rescue Mission and at The Salvation Army. Links to both of these organizations can be found here.

Donate Hygiene Kits to our low barrier shelters

Please give small or travel size items
Soap or Body Wash                                         
Shampoo and conditioner
Lotion                                                                   
Powder
Toothpaste
Toothbrush
Deodorant
Razors
Bandages            
Bag to carry it all in
Tampons and Pads 

Collect Other Items to Meet Winter Needs

All clean and new or gently used 
Coats
Hats
Gloves
Socks
Boots
Blankets

Donate Breakfast Items

Coffee and tea  
Sugar
Powdered Creamer                                        
Grab and Go Breakfast Items such as granola bars

Monetary Donations

Listed below are Colorado Springs organizations that accept monetary donations as well as a variety of resources, ranging from food, clothing, toiletries, cars, household appliances and more:

Catholic Charities

Money, food, clothing, baby products, bedding, paper products, cleaning supplies, children books, hygiene products, and gear.

Crossfire Ministries

 Money, food (perishable and non-perishable), personal hygiene items, household necessities and gently used clothing for all ages. 

​​​​Ecumenical Social Ministries (ESM)

All food items, diapers and toiletries are accepted; however, the constant need exists for men’s socks, men’s jeans, men’s and women’s underwear, color t-shirts, granola bars, small containers of peanut butter, chicken, and tuna.

Homeward Pikes Peak

Money, non-perishable food, toiletries, kitchen supplies, household cleaning supplies, laundry items, baby products, and mattresses.

Mercy's Gate

Money, food, electronics, computers, and cars.

More Than a Meal

Money, vehicle donations

Partners in Housing

Salvation Army

Money, clothing, furniture, automobiles, household goods, nonperishable foods, toiletries and appliances

Springs Rescue Mission

Money, food (both perishable and non-perishable), clothes, personal hygiene items, baby items, small appliances, kitchen items, bedding/sleeping bags.

TESSA

Money, baby items, toiletries, gas cards, bus passes, used or new cell phones, and grocery cards.

Urban Peak

Money, nonperishable food, household goods, and appliances, bikes, personal hygiene items.

Westside Cares

Money, food, Clothing, and toiletries.

Contact HelpCOS at 719-385-5772 or email HelpCOS  

Spread the Word

We Need Your Voice

Help us spread the word about HelpCOS by posting to social media and sharing the graphics below. Rember to use #HelpCOS and let others know how to help and donate. 

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