When Bob Holmes, the director of umbrella homeless organization Homeward Pikes Peak, last spoke to City Council, he assured the Councilors they were making the right decision.
He said that a no-camping ordinance would drive homeless people out of dangerous and unsanitary camps — and into the waiting arms of shelters and service agencies that would welcome them off the streets and help them turn their lives around. The fact that Holmes had just received a $100,000 grant from the El Pomar Foundation to open up to 600 beds at the C-C Boarding House (inside the Express Inn, near U.S. Highway 24 and Eighth Street) helped to reassure Council that the homeless did have other places to go.
When the Indy recently conducted a survey of rooms available to the homeless, we likewise found the C-C Boarding House's abundance to be a saving grace — the single player making the difference between a shortage and a surplus of beds (see here).
But, according to a recent and terse e-mail from Holmes, it's getting tight at the boarding house. And based on our figures, that means our soon-to-be-ejected campers may not be able to find the help they need elsewhere.
Here's the e-mail from Holmes, which was sent out to other local service agencies:
Yesterday 25 campers showed up at the Express Inn “for a room”. This is happening because the ordinance is beginning to be enforced and people are saying, “Hey, we can go to the Express Inn and get a room. Beats the heck out of camping.” NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.
We are selecting campers who exhibit willingness to look for work (21 have jobs) and some desire to change their lives, not drunks and druggies, since we have rehab programs and sobering beds for them. We have placed 124 people so far, and are becoming maxed out. I am very nervous about the fact that the El Pomar funds will run out at the end of May, and I see no one or no entity even considering “picking up the ball”. All this has been done with volunteer labor. The money is only being spent for the rooms. It can’t last forever, even though we are filling rooms as soon as people are able to leave or as soon as we kick them out for infractions.
So, do not send people to the Express Inn, please. We will neither see nor place them. We have worked with a few agencies who have identified specific tent campers that were able to be interviewed in the camps, but this $100 K from El Pomar is in no way meant to supplant any existing programs.
If you really want to help, offer your services or your organization’s, for case management. Start tapping the individuals and churches who were so anxious to bring food and other “stuff” in to the camps in December for dollars to support housing for the campers, e.g., “Get a homeless person off the streets for $60 a week.”
We need help from the City, as well, in the form of an emergency appropriation.
Let’s not look at the El Pomar monies as a panacea and feel like the problem is over. Let’s look at these monies as a catalyst to move your volunteering case managers out into the field to help with the Express Inn clients. We would prefer trained volunteer case managers from existing homeless service agencies. (People are still homeless on Saturdays and Sundays, so we can accommodate weekend volunteers.) Also, look at the El Pomar funds as a challenge for the rest of the community to step up and open checkbooks.
Please respond to me directly with offers of help, not the entire list. If you just want to “wax philosophical” please don’t respond at all.