Homelessness-related issues have been some of the most difficult issues to face our community. Because homelessness is a complex issue caused by many different factors, there is no one easy solution. For this reason, the City supports the Pikes Peak Continuum of Care, a consortium of stakeholder organizations with expertise in specific areas of homelessness, to provide services and to advise the City on the issue.
The issue of homelessness is not unique to Colorado Springs, but is an issue that affects communities across the nation. Our homeless numbers per capita are average in comparison to other similarly populated areas across the country. That said, we recognize the valid concerns raised by our residents, and assure you we are working hard to address the issue on multiple levels.
As you can imagine, we are hearing from advocates for the homeless who believe the City should be doing more to assist this population, and who display sympathy for those affected by homelessness. They are concerned that some in our community have no place to live, can’t find housing or jobs, don’t have a place to go the bathroom, take a shower, dump their garbage, or get mental health or substance abuse help. They are concerned that some in our community work or have housing vouchers but still can’t find a place to live. We appreciate and recognize this view.
We are also hearing from those in our community who are upset about trash, safety of our parks, camping on public property, illegal fires, and crime in their neighborhoods. Many of these individuals feel that the City, the County, the Faith Community and the Homeless agencies do too much enabling and that many people abuse the system. These are also valid concerns. Finding the balance in providing services to those experiencing homelessness while respecting the needs and concerns of all residents remains the City’s priority.
Perhaps the most frequent complaints we hear have to do with the number of panhandlers on our streets corners and people camping on public property. While we can limit activity on medians where occupation presents a safety risk to pedestrians or drivers, panhandling itself is protected under the First Amendment. Further, heeding the direction of a Department of Justice brief written in 2015, our police force will not relocate individuals camping on non-park public land unless there is a shelter space available. While our community is committed to addressing the concerns of its residents, it can and will only do so within the confines of the law.
The 2019 PIT (Point-in-Time) Count was conducted on January 27, 2019 by Community Health Partnership (CHP) and the Pikes Peak Continuum of Care (PPCoC).
A total of 1,562 people experiencing homelessness were identified during the count. Volunteers found 444 persons sleeping unsheltered outdoors, in cars, or in abandoned buildings — a decrease of 13% percent (513) from 2018 — and 1,118 people were sheltered in emergency shelters or transitional housing units – an increase of 7.7% (1,038)
Each year, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires communities to conduct a one-night Point-in-Time (PIT) Count of people experiencing homelessness. The PIT Count represents one data source that helps communities better understand why people lose their housing and, in turn, how communities can design responsive programs that ensure homelessness is a rare, brief, and non-recurring phenomenon.
This year, more than 180 volunteers helped conduct surveys and distributed socks, hats, gloves, and handwarmers to people experiencing homelessness.
The PIT Count represents a one-night estimate of the local scope of homelessness. CHP is examining several data elements in the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) to determine how homelessness impacts the community on an annual basis. This information will be released in the upcoming Community Report.