Colorado Springs City Council member on the homeless: Get them bus tickets and jobs

By: Jakob Rodgers, The Gazette
June 25, 2014 Updated: June 25, 2014 at 5:40 pm
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Helen Collins idea for addressing homelessness across Colorado Springs: Bus tickets and jobs.

The council member spoke up Tuesday against the city’s 2014 Action Plan for housing and homeless programs — sparking a brief exchange with council woman Jill Gaebler and prompting two audience members to also voice their opinions.

The exchange began when Collins, who represents District 4, offered her take on homelessness and the action plan.

“A lot of the homeless, the best way to get rid of the homeless is to give them a bus ticket back to their families,” Collins said. “This isn’t even taken into consideration. It’s like the tax payer has to fund the homeless for housing.”

“They go into a low income housing area,” Collins continued, referencing her district on the southeast side of Colorado Springs. “They drag it down and then they move on to the next new low income housing facility.

“I just don’t think that’s right for the taxpayer.”

She added that the best way to help homeless individuals is to “make them work,” because she feels federally-funded affordable housing programs only enable homeless people to live off taxpayer dollars.

Her views drew a quick response from Gaebler, who said studies have shown that the most effective way to help homeless individuals is to give them a place to live.

Many of the city’s homeless people are veterans, she said, and homeless individuals often suffer from mental illness.

“Just to give them a home is the first step,” Gaebler said. “It’s called Housing First – helping them to figure out what’s going on in their lives, addressing their mental illness, and assessing what they can do to begin their healthy lives.”

Collins countered that homelessness boils down to a failure of families to take care of their relatives.

She ended by taking aim at Gaebler’s mention of homeless veterans.

“I’m a retired veteran – maybe I should get some affordable housing,” Collins said.

The action plan – which detailed how the city expects to spend millions of dollars in federal grant money on affordable housing and homeless shelter initiatives – passed with the approval of six council members.

Collins, Joel Miller and Andy Pico all voted against the proposal, though not before two people in the audience spoke up in an apparent response to Collins’ remarks. One of them was Lindsay Deen, who identified herself as homeless.

“A lot these people have jobs, make money but still cannot afford a place to live,” Deen said.

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