In January 2020, the Pikes Peak Continuum of Care facilitated the Annual Point-in-Time count. The 2020 Point-in-Time count showed that there were at least 1,339 people experiencing homelessness in El Paso County on the night of January 26th, 2020. This number includes people in shelters, transitional housing, and those unsheltered. The total unsheltered count was 358. These numbers show a promising decrease of unsheltered from previous years. The Point-in-Time count, although considered a conservative estimate, contains useful data to help us understand long term trends of homelessness in our community.
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 the environment. Although not a service provider, the City of Colorado Springs remains committed to championing 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. It is clear that the costs of homelessness are significant in human suffering, actual dollars, and public perceptions about the safety and vitality of the Pikes Peak region.
In 2019 the City of Colorado Springs sought community input in a series of six town hall meetings. From that came the 2019 Colorado Springs Homelessness Initiative. This Initiative set 10 short term attainable goals that aimed to improve homelessness related issues in the City of Colorado Springs.
The City launched a website (www.helpcos.org) to act as a clearinghouse of information for community members in need or for community members looking for a way to help. We also invested in adding additional shelter beds so that no one in our community is forced to sleep outside. We started the Pikes Peak Veteran Housing Fund and raised $100,000 to aid veterans experiencing homelessness to find a home of their own. We developed and launched the Colorado Springs Fire Department Homeless Outreach Program with targeted outreach in the Downtown area. We launched the Homeless Outreach Court Program in order to connect people to available resources through our Municipal Court system. We also launched WorkCOS, a City program that provides employment for individuals staying in our shelter system.
“I’m encouraged by the progress we have made this year on addressing homelessness in a meaningful and sustainable way,” said Andy Phelps, the City’s homelessness prevention and response coordinator. “Homelessness is an incredibly complex issue, but with sustained focus and truly committed partners like the Springs Rescue Mission, Salvation Army, the Place and the rest of the Continuum of Care, I am confident we will continue to move the needle on addressing homelessness in our community.”
We are proud to share that the City has met all 10 of the goals set forth in the 2019 Homelessness Initiative, improving homelessness related issues. More can be found on the City’s successes in responding to homelessness at: www.helpcos.org
Generously Submitted by Andy Phelps, City of Colorado Springs, Homelessness Prevention and Response Coordinator