homeless shelter
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A sea of bunk beds at Springs Rescue Mission on Thursday, November 17, 2016. photo by Jerilee Bennett,The Gazette

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Colorado Springs will spend $500,000 more on shelter beds for homeless people, the City Council agreed Tuesday.

That money, combined with federal funds, is expected to create about 370 “low-barrier” beds to local shelters.

The Springs Rescue Mission will get 150 beds, and the Salvation Army will create 220 “low-barrier” beds, meaning admission will be based on behavior, not sobriety. Most of those 370 beds will be available next month, said Andrew Phelps, the city’s homelessness prevention and response coordinator. Another 150 beds are expected to be available after the start of the new year, Phelps said.

Colorado Springs pitches plan to ease homelessness

After the new beds are added, the city will have about 670 low-barrier shelter beds, he said.

Those seeking shelter can arrive intoxicated, but they can’t use drugs or alcohol on the premises and must obey the shelter rules.

The $500,000 will come out of the city’s general fund. Councilman Don Knight cast the sole vote against the appropriation, saying the general fund shouldn’t become the permanent source for such expenses. Rather, the appropriation should serve as a loan, to be repaid by city departments and community groups that benefit from it.

With the extra beds, service providers will better address the shelter, mental health and substance abuse needs among local homeless people, Mayor John Suthers has said. But the extra beds also ensure that police can properly enforce local laws.

The council banned creek-side camping in July, saying the ban would keep people safe from floods and reduce E. coli levels in Fountain and Monument creeks.

Anyone caught camping within 100 feet of city waterways and drainage canals could face up to $2,500 in fines and 180 days in jail.

Police haven’t been able to fully enforce the ban, though, because shelter beds were so limited that the campers had nowhere else to go.

The appropriation will at least “put a dent” in the problem, Councilman Andy Pico said.

Also Tuesday, the council approved a resolution opposing Amendment 74 on the Nov. 6 ballot. It would require governments to compensate landowners if new laws or regulations reduce their property values.

Pico, Knight and Councilman Tom Strand opposed the resolution, questioning whether it’s appropriate for the council to take formal action on political initiatives.

But other council members and the mayor said the amendment is too vague and could drown the city in expensive litigation.

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