Scott Anderson, who is homeless, says the city should pay the homeless to clean up trash, and charge a small amount to stay in a homeless-run campground. Unused industrial areas would be a perfect spot for campers, he says.
"We let those properties sit there and sit there and sit there, and we chain 'em up, and we're not doing anything with them ... We have the means in this town to be able to solve this problem, if we just make better choices for ourselves and implement a few things."
He also supports a campus-style approach for services, which he believes would be convenient.
"I think it's a good idea because you don't have to have it in a residential area, you can have it in a commercial area. You can get past the zoning aspects if you want."
Dennis Owens, a formerly homeless artist who has lost both his legs to diabetes, says a person must want to change his life.
"I know people that lived on the streets, I know what it is: They lazy ... Get food stamps, go sell 'em. Get a motel room, get high, get tore up. I been there, I done that ...
"If you want to sleep under a bush, you choose that bush. Now the ones that I know, and I know quite a few people here in Colorado Springs, they get comfortable, they relax with it."
Deb (who would not give a last name), is previously homeless. She notes that not all people want help.
"Some people choose to live the free lifestyle, and they like to be homeless," she says. "And they have drug addiction, alcohol addiction and they choose to be that. Some people are just waiting for money to come in, the majority of people, and pretty much that's it."
Steve Gerson, who is homeless, supports a homeless-run shelter. He says the homeless would be able to control it, because they would know how to talk to one another. “This isn’t the Salvation Army’s security that they hire, this is us,” he says. “I’m your brother. I am here with you. I live here.”
He also says it’s important for the city to add jobs for blue-collar workers, and for policies on benefits to be adjusted. For instance, food assistance can sometimes be cut when a person becomes homeless because he is no longer paying rent, and therefore has reduced expenses. But those cutbacks can make it even more difficult to break out of poverty. “Because I’m on the street,” he notes, “the state of Colorado has finally figured out that they should take $182 out of my food stamps. I get $18 a month, out of $200 [possible reimbursement].”
Jeff Dowers, who is homeless, says with jobs scarce, the public needs to learn to accept the homeless. “We have an ecosystem that is fulfilled by a full circle — it’s the same with society also,” he says. “You know, homelessness ought to just be accepted as another class level. You have homelessness, you have the poor, you have the middle class — which is disappearing rapidly — and the rich.”More access to hassle-free camping would also help, he says.
“Years ago, it was on my heart to have a place here in town that I could just buy a plot of land, section it off, allow the homeless to come and go as they will, no strings attached. I’m not going to preach to you, I’m not going to make you believe in the god I believe, you can or cannot. No strings attached except stupidity — we’re talking about drinking, fighting, things like that. The thing with it, is the city puts so many restrictions on anyone who does try to help.”