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Homeless population swells



More people in Colorado Springs are homeless — including an alarming number of children — and there are fewer shelter beds for them, a report released last week shows.

The Homeless Point in Time Count is performed every year in Colorado Springs, in accordance with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requirements. On a single day, in this case Jan. 26, surveyors with the Colorado Springs/El Paso County Continuum of Care attempt to count every homeless person in the community and get a quick read of their circumstances. The information determines how much funding a community receives from the federal government to address the need.

Among the findings on Jan. 26:

• 1,219 people were homeless, a 4 percent increase from last year.

• 269 people were unsheltered, including 166 chronically homeless people, while only 11 shelter beds were unclaimed.

• 70 percent of unsheltered people reported their last permanent address was in El Paso County.

• 254 were children.

• 150 were veterans.

These numbers emerged despite the efforts of homeless service providers. In 2013, AspenPointe and Urban Peak Colorado Springs outreach teams contacted and offered help to 890 people on the streets. The Colorado Springs Police Department's Homeless Outreach Team made an additional 2,465 contacts with homeless people, and gave referrals for services 1,208 times.

Still, in addition to the shortage of shelter beds, the city's recent Affordable Housing Needs Assessment found that there are only 16 affordable housing units for every 100 people in the city who are considered very low-income. In March, the Colorado Springs Housing Authority had a wait list of 2,583 people for its Section 8 program, 1,313 people for its public housing units, and 2,573 for all other programs.

"More and more people are realizing that folks experiencing homelessness in our community are most often also from our community," says Urban Peak executive director Shawna Rae Kemppainen in an email. "We do not have enough places for people to go to get off the street. We have more work to do if we want to live up to our ideal of being a city that champions those who most need a champion."

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