2019 end of year highlights: City meets goals set by Homeless Initiative

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With increased shelter beds, a new work program, Landlord Incentive Plan and more, City meets goals set by 2019 Homeless Initiative

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – From enhanced public health and safety response to increased shelter bed availability for both individuals and families; a dedicated funding source to encourage housing for homeless veterans to incentivizing participation in case management, the City made significant progress in meeting the goals set forth in the 2019 Homelessness Initiative this year. 

“I’m encouraged by the progress we have made this year on addressing homelessness in a meaningful and sustainable way,” said Andy Phelps, the City’s homelessness prevention and response coordinator. “Homelessness is an incredibly complex issue, but with sustained focus and truly committed partners like the Springs Rescue Mission, Salvation Army, the Place and the rest of the Continuum of Care, I am confident we will continue to move the needle on addressing homelessness in our community.” 

GOAL 1 - Inform the public on homelessness related issues 

The HelpCOS campaign gets a new giving case

  • The City’s text-to-give program has successfully decreased panhandling complaints while collecting funds that will now support the Work Engagement Program at the Springs Rescue Mission. The Work Engagement program incentivizes guests at the Rescue Mission to engage in regular work in exchange for job coaching, benefits at the Mission, the development of a positive work history and referrals to full-time work.
  • A comprehensive website, www.helpcos.org, provides a clearinghouse of information where the public can learn about available resources for those experiencing homelessness and how they can get involved.

GOAL 2: Increase Access to Shelter and Services

Over 250 low barrier shelter beds added in our community

  • Originally funded via a City Council special appropriation ordinance, this $500,000 of funding continues in the 2020 City Budget, helping to ensure an adequate number of low barrier shelter beds at the Springs Rescue Mission and Salvation Army. This helps to ensure that no one is forced to sleep outside and also enables law enforcement to enforce the city’s no camping ordinances. 

Options Increased for families experiencing homelessness

  • The Homeless Family Solutions Collaborative was formed to address this issue. This collaborative between Catholic Charities, Family Promise and Partners in Housing is actively working on a range of goals to improve service delivery for local families experiencing homelessness.
  • One of the collaborative agencies is on the cusp of opening a low barrier family shelter later this month.

Street Outreach Increased

  • The City collaborated with community partners to launch a homeless outreach pilot project. This pilot, led by the Colorado Springs Fire Department CARES Team, targets police and fire department “super utilizers” in the Downtown area with the goal of connecting people experiencing homelessness to needed services, shelter and housing. An anticipated result of this targeted outreach is a decrease in police and fire department utilization, potentially saving significant amounts of taxpayer money.

Goal 3: Decrease Barriers for People Ready to Exit Homelessness

Funding established for homeless work program

  • The City launched the HelpCOS My City Project in collaboration with the Springs Rescue Mission on December 3. The HelpCOS My City Project is a monthly cleanup in the Mill St. Neighborhood performed by guests staying at the Springs Rescue Mission. As a part of Springs Rescue Mission’s existing Work Engagement Program, the My City project aims to support individuals in achieving greater self-sufficiency by providing access to quality employability training, valuable work experience, and job search support, all while helping to keep the Mill St. Neighborhood clean.
  • In addition to providing all clean up supplies and trash removal, the City has directed all donations from the HelpCOS Campaign (text “HelpCOS” to 667-873) towards supporting the Work Engagement Program at the Springs Rescue Mission. The donation is tax deductible.

Participation in case management incentivized via the creation of an Outreach Court program

  • In cooperation with the Colorado Springs Municipal Court, The City has launched an Outreach Court Program which allows participants to clear warrants at the Springs Rescue Mission with the option of choosing to engage case management as a condition of probation or diversion in lieu of fines. The goal of the program is to increase access to mental health services, addiction treatment, and case management. To date, 32 defendants have been referred to this program (totaling 62 cases).
  • The Outreach Court Program also aims to reduce the number of arrest warrants for municipal level citations due to failure to appear by offering quarterly “Amnesty Days” at the Springs Rescue Mission, where warrants can be quashed, attorneys can be appointed where appropriate, and new court dates are given. To date, two Amnesty Days have occurred helping 37 individuals (totaling 58 cases) to get their cases back on track, while removing warrants as a barrier to housing and employment.

Goal 4:Increase Access to Housing

Attainable HousingAttainable housing means decent, attractive, safe, and sanitary accommodation that is affordable for the full spectrum of the city's residents. While a cost of no more than 30% of gross household income is a good rule of thumb for affordability, there will be some circumstances where higher or lower thresholds may be more applicable. Plan in draft form

  • The City’s Attainable Housing Plan is currently in draft form and is under review.

Landlord Incentive Fund established to help house veterans

  • In collaboration with Rocky Mountain Human Services Homes for All Veterans and Peak Military Care Network, the City has developed the policy and procedure for a Landlord Incentive Fund that will aim to incentivize landlords in housing military veterans experiencing homelessness in our community. Fundraising for this private donation fund will begin in 2020.

Goal 5: Clean up Illegal Camps and Protect the Environment

CSPD enhances homelessness response capabilities

  • CSPD has increased the size of the Homeless Outreach Team from four officers to six officers. CSPD has also developed a subject matter expert (SME) program in each of the four CSPD subdivisions that trains additional officers to respond to illegal camping. This has resulted in an increase in illegal camps being identified and a quicker response time to citizen complaints about these camps. 
  • CSPD has also added two officers (seven days a week) on walking patrol in the downtown area in order to help ensure that all residents can enjoy the Downtown area. 

Neighborhood Services adds staff to address illegal camps 

  • The City added three full time employees dedicated solely to illegal camp remediation. This led to a substantial decrease in response time and a marked increase in the quantity of illegal camps being cleaned up within 24 hours of being reported. 

The progress made through the development and implementation of the 2019 Colorado Springs Homelessness Initiative has exemplified how setting short term and attainable goals creates positive change in our community and assists in improving the health and safety of all Colorado Springs residents.

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