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Dumpsters, camp among ideas floated at Colorado Springs meeting on homelessness

February 21, 2018 Updated: February 22, 2018 at 6:23 am
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photo - FILE - Chris Carr sits next to a large 5-6 hole in the ground with logs and branches as a roof. He participated in the annual Point in Time survey of the homeless on Monday, January 29, 2018. (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)
FILE - Chris Carr sits next to a large 5-6 hole in the ground with logs and branches as a roof. He participated in the annual Point in Time survey of the homeless on Monday, January 29, 2018. (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette) 

Trail-side dumpsters, an hourly work program for people living on the streets and a city-sanctioned camp were among ideas floated Wednesday evening during a meeting aimed at seeking new ideas to address homelessness across Colorado Springs.

More than 100 people, many of them homeless, packed the first evening gathering of the Coalition of Homelessness Advocates and Providers, otherwise known as CHAP 2.0.

The meeting held at Penrose Library came as the group - which consists of nonprofit leaders and homeless advocates - presented findings of a recent survey detailing barriers to getting off the streets.

Driver's licenses, birth certificates and military discharge papers are frequently stolen or lost by people living on the streets, said Beth Roalstad, chairwoman of Pikes Peak Continuum of Care. Replacing them can take three to six months, while requiring fees that many people can't pay, she said.

The city's public transportation system - especially to the El Paso County Citizens Service Center in northwest Colorado Springs - remains difficult for people seeking food stamps, job assistance and other social services.

And the city's dearth of affordable housing has transformed homeless shelters into long-term housing facilities, because people there have little hope of finding apartments.

"We have folks who are living in shelters who have jobs, who are using our shelters because they cannot earn enough for their rent in an apartment," Roalstad said.

Proposed solutions Wednesday evening were as numerous as the issues themselves.

The city needs to place dumpsters and trash receptacles along creekside trails so that homeless campers can keep their sites clean, said Kurt Haehl, a homeless man living on the city's west side.

Apartment landlords also must accept more federal housing vouchers, rather than eschew them in favor of higher-paying tenants, several people said.

Sharron Fiedler-Wood, an outreach volunteer with the nonprofit Blackbird Outreach, said she recently met a homeless camper who had spent months unable to find a landlord willing to accept his voucher, leaving him suicidal.

"Where do these people go?" Fiedler-Wood asked.

Another woman suggested increasing transitional housing. And multiple people suggested the creation of a program that could offer hourly work to pay homeless people willing to clean up the city's littered creek beds.

Edwin Aldridge, also known as Pastor FedEx, told the gathering that he was planning such a program.

And Andrew Phelps, the city's homelessness prevention and response coordinator, also said after the meeting that the city already is trying to implement several of those suggestions.

Roalstad said the recommendations will be taken to the Continuum of Care's board for review. The group's next meeting will be in June.

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