Public forum to address debate over downtown 'Homeless Divide'

Staff reports Updated: April 27, 2013 at 12:00 am • Published: April 27, 2013 0

The debate over homelessness downtown will be the focus of the first “Community Conversation” in which two long-standing institutions are combining forces with a community group to seek more meaningful dialogue about issues that affect Colorado Springs and the region.

The Gazette and Colorado College will hold the first public forum from 6 to 8:15 p.m. Thursday, May 9, at the college’s Armstrong Hall. The topic will be “The Homeless Divide” on the issue of homeless people congregating in the downtown area, especially from Acacia Park to Interstate 25. The Gazette also plans to write stories on the issue before the forum.

The forum is part of the “Community Conversations” project that The Gazette recently kicked off on its Op-Ed page to offer different viewpoints on issues and then seek the community’s input on those issues. The quarterly forums, which will be free and open to the public, are intended to address larger and often divisive issues that affect the community.

As part of the project, Food for Thought will expand the dialogue and allow residents to offer possible solutions.

On May 9, Colorado College President Jill Tiefenthaler will moderate a panel of community leaders and those directly involved with the issue of homelessness in our community.

“I am thrilled with the opportunity to partner with the Colorado Springs Gazette by moderating ‘Community Conversations,’” Tiefenthaler said. “These forums provide an excellent arena for the community to engage with the issues that affect us most as residents of Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region. Colorado College strives to instill the values of active civic engagement and community service, so it is a privilege to be able to not only participate in these ’Community Conversations,’ but also offer CC as the venue for the events.”

The panel will include:

• Suzi Bach, the wife of Mayor Steve Bach and who has been actively involved in the issue.

• Richard Skorman, co-owner of Poor Richard’s stores and restaurant downtown and a longtime community volunteer.

• Bob Holmes, executive director of Homeward Pikes Peak.

• M.J. Thomson and possibly other members of the Colorado Springs Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Team.

• Sarah Stacy, director of the Resource Advocate Program, Springs Rescue Mission.

The forum will be from 6 to 7:15 p.m. It will be followed by small-group discussions facilitated by Food for Thought, a program of the Colorado Springs Diversity Forum that fosters civil discourse with a goal of “respectful, curious, non-judgmental conversation.”

The Gazette was founded in 1872 and Colorado College two years later. Both were dreams of Colorado Springs’ founder Gen. William J. Palmer.

“It would be natural for the community’s first newspaper and college to combine to address issues facing our city and region,” The Gazette Publisher Dan Steever said. “This is part of our commitment to be an integral part of the community, report on the issues that it faces and seek engagement with the community on those issues.”

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