Colorado Springs has held several public town halls regarding the city’s Homelessness Action Plan for the coming year. The next meeting is Thursday, November 15. Andy Phelps, the city’s Homelessness Prevention and Response Coordinator, put the plan together. 91.5 KRCC’s Abigail Beckman sat down with Phelps to discuss the feedback he’s heard so far.
On services for families facing homelessness:
The lack of attention paid to family homelessness has been quite big, to be honest. We've gotten a lot of feedback about that and obviously, I am concerned about family homelessness in our community. There are services for families experiencing homelessness. For example, at Salvation Army R.J. Montgomery Center, they do have space for families experiencing homelessness—but they don't allow the families to stay together. Usually the children go with the mom and the dad has to sleep on the "dad side." We also have Catholic Charities [which] has a lot of services available for families. But this is just another case of the need being very large and the resources not being enough.
On the effect the legalization of marijuana has had on homelessness here:
[Something] we see from the Point in Time count is that around 70 percent of those experiencing homelessness in our community are from right here in El Paso County. It's a homegrown issue, in my opinion.
Now, has the legalization of marijuana had an impact on homelessness? Sure. It most likely has. To what extent we don't really have good data for that. That's something that I would like to work on in the next year to get the data on that.
On response to the plan from people experiencing homelessness:
At both town hall meetings [so far], we've had people experiencing homelessness show up to provide feedback. It's always heartbreaking. They get up on the microphone and they share their story about how they got there and unfortunately all I can offer sometimes from the podium where I'm speaking is "thank you for sharing." And that's it...what I'm doing right now with this plan is more of a... 30-thousand-foot view in some ways. I don't have an answer for every single individual person. What my hope is, is that the implementation of this plan will impact the most people that we can in a positive way.
On misconceptions surrounding the homeless population in our community:
I hear from some people in the community that if you build it, they will come—if we have too many services for the homeless, more will come here. I just have not seen the data that bears that out. For example, in Pueblo, they have less homeless services than we do, less shelter capacity than we do and yet their rates of homelessness are much, much higher than ours
On combatting the false narratives:
I think the best way to get to know a situation is by meeting people living in that situation and getting to know them and their stories.
I would encourage people to visit HelpCOS.org where they can learn about all the ways they can volunteer or donate their time or good or their money to any number of the wonderful nonprofits we have in our community.
The next town hall meeting is from 6 - 7:30 p.m. of Thursday, November 15 at the Police Operations Center, 705 S. Nevada. The meeting will focus on how the city enforces current laws that affect the homeless population.. Other meetings are as follows:
- Wednesday, Nov. 28—Patty Jewett Golf Course, 900 East Espanola Street
- Wednesday, Dec. 5—Fire Station 8, 3737 Airport Road
- Thursday, Dec. 13—Westside Community Center, 1628 W. Bijou St.
Online feedback about the Action Plan can be made through SpeakUp! COS. The deadline for public input is December 14.