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Diverse ideas flow from Colorado Springs homelessness conversations

By: DANIEL J. CHACOn daniel.chacon@gazette.com
May 9, 2013 Updated: May 10, 2013 at 7:55 am
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photo - After a panel discussion of Community Conversations: The Homeless Divide, audience members broke into small discussion groups to further the conversation at Colorado College on Thursday, May 9, 2013. (Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)
After a panel discussion of Community Conversations: The Homeless Divide, audience members broke into small discussion groups to further the conversation at Colorado College on Thursday, May 9, 2013. (Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette) 

A large brainstorming session Thursday after a panel discussion about homelessness in Colorado Springs produced diverse conversations about how to tackle the problem.

Ideas ranged from allowing homeless people to collect recyclables from the county dump to holding individuals who receive services from faith-based organizations more accountable.

'There's a perception that, by the faith-based organizations committing to their principles and giving services to everyone, that it builds the problem downtown, ' Candace Gross said. 'There were many at our table who felt there needed to be some accountability. '

Others talked about the wisdom of a comprehensive campus for the homeless as proposed by Mayor Steve Bach and his wife, Suzi, who has been studying the issue.

'We went down that road 15 years ago with the Montgomery community center, ' Matt Parkhouse said, referring to a similar proposal that died.

'The big issue was, 'What neighborhood can we stick it in?' ' he said. 'They were very vague in the programming and kind of making stuff up as they went along. One neighborhood fought it off so they found another neighborhood and that neighborhood eventually fought it off. It was a five-year process. They wasted a lot of time and a lot of money. '

For Shawn Huff, 41, who was homeless for about a year after a divorce, the answer rests in thinking differently about the symptoms of homelessness.

'The symptom that we're talking about tonight is the homeless individuals hanging around downtown. That's a symptom. We have to treat the root cause of homelessness, ' he said.

'The root cause of homelessness can be ideological. It can be social. It can be religious, ' Huff said. 'So we have to come together as a community and bare all. We have to ask ourselves, 'How are we going to be measured?' '

Adison Petti, who oversees the soup kitchen at Colorado College, said more voices have to be brought into the mix, from homeless people to community-based groups.

'I'm really glad that we're having this conversation and that people showed up, ' he said.

'But even the leaders that we choose to represent this issue represent certain values. '

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Contact Daniel ChacOn: 476-1623 Twitter @danieljchacon Facebook Daniel Chacon

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