by Ralph Routon
Violence is increasing around the creekside homeless camps near downtown Colorado Springs, and that’s one reason local officials are developing possible living alternatives in advance of a no-camping ordinance apparently destined for City Council in February.
Those were some of the messages Tuesday from a “homeless summit” at Pikes Peak United Way, updating the ongoing problems for local media.
Brett Iverson, representing the Colorado Springs Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Team, detailed three incidences of violence just on Monday night: a liquor store robbery, a knife fight and a woman being assaulted. But, he said, “it’s a tight-knit group and they fear for themselves … so they’re not reporting crimes out of fear.” Iverson said such crimes are on the rise, and he also discussed health concerns as well as other problems such as homeless “pawning donations for drugs and cash.”
Ginger Jeffrey of the city attorney’s office said a new no-camping ordinance would go before City Council in February, and it “will prevent living at campsites.” But various entities are working on alternative choices for the homeless, depending on their circumstances, that would be offered even before a new city ordinance would go into effect. Those options would range from mental-health programs to shelters and even sobering beds.
Another message from the summit: People should not go to the homeless camps, even with donations, but instead funnel their generosity through money gifts to organizations that serve and regularly deal with the homeless. Some of those groups include Catholic Charities Outreach, 14 W. Bijou St., 321-5183; Springs Rescue Mission, 5 W. Las Vegas St., 632-1822; Ecumenical Social Ministries, 210 N. Weber St., 636-1916; and the Homeward Pikes Peak emergency fund, 518 N. Nevada Ave., 955-0731.
That would go a lot further than some misguided recent donations taken to camps, such as boxed food that would have to be mixed and microwaved, or a Christmas tree and lights with no electricity available.