- Associated Press - Sunday, February 1, 2015

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) - Five years after a Colorado Springs-wide camping ban, homeless camps are gone from Monument Creek, but elaborate campsites and abandoned tents remain commonplace just miles from Colorado Springs’ City Hall.

Veterans outreach advocate Andrew Phelps says the homeless have not left the region, they just moved, and finding shelter could get more difficult in the next few months.

In April, two shelters open during cold-weather months are scheduled to close for the season.

The two house roughly 180 people each night, and they’ve offered at least one night of shelter for about 600 people since opening Nov. 1, said Anne Beer, the Pikes Peak United Way’s vice president of income and housing stability.

Once closed, the only year-round shelter remaining is the Salvation Army’s 200-bed R.J. Montgomery Center, which has been near capacity throughout the winter.

Using maps of known campsites, Phelps, another outreach worker and the Colorado Springs Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Team recently visited dozens of locations across east Colorado Springs, Fountain and Manitou Springs.

Phelps counted 33 people, many of whom lived in tents or, on occasion, slept beside a business. Other outreach workers found more people, and volunteers believe the number is substantially higher.

The county was short about 24,500 affordable housing units in 2014, according to a study commissioned by the city and El Paso County. The shortfall has left more people one missed rent check from eviction or unable to move out of a motel and into an apartment, advocates say.

Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach unveiled a two-year plan in January 2014 to end homelessness, and two of its main goals are to increase shelter space and affordable housing options.

The effort improved coordination between nonprofits and increased shelter space in cold-weather months, said Aimee Cox, the city’s housing and community initiatives manager, but finding developers for more broad-based affordable housing projects has been difficult.

Five years after voting for the camping ban, City Councilwoman Jan Martin said the ordinance works because it gave police officers another tool to help get campers into housing and treatment programs.

“It really was an effort to give the police an ability to work with homeless people,” she said. “From our perspective, it’s been really successful.”

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Information from: The Gazette, https://www.gazette.com


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