[Hpn] "Census" of Colorado Springs homeless (long)

HOBOMATT@aol.com HOBOMATT@aol.com
Mon, 04 Sep 2000 14:14:31 -0400 (EDT)


The below is from the 9-1-00 local daily paper here in Colorado Springs. This 
is an increadible inflated figure here. So far, I have not been able to talk 
to one person, other than the City personell or the involved agencies, who 
agrees with the figures. If we had suffered a 234% increase in "literal 
homeless", our soup kitchen would be serving around 700 people a day rather 
than the 350 they really feed. Our shelter would be turning away about 300 
people a night, instead of having empty beds. Rather than 800, the real 
figure is most likely around 500 people. Of course, this census was done by 
those who wish to build the biggest shelter between the West Coast and the 
Mississippi.

No place to call home

By Eric Gorski/The Gazette
Edited by Mike Braham; headline by Tim Chong

More than 800 people are living in the parks, streets and shelters of 
Colorado Springs, and as many as 1,200 are at risk of joining them, according 
to a study of the city's homeless population released Thursday.
The study by a Denver consulting firm, paid for with $30,000 in city money, 
also says that homeless people here are far more likely to wind up on the 
streets more than once in their lives than homeless people elsewhere.

The findings, the bulk of which are based on a March canvass of 19 sites 
frequented by the homeless, provide the first thorough analysis of the city's 
homeless population.

The report surely will be dissected by both supporters and opponents of a 
controversial American Red Cross and El Pomar Foundation proposal to build a 
$6 million center that would consolidate services for the homeless. That 
project will be considered by the City Council Nov. 14.

That's not why the study was undertaken, though. The goal of the city and a 
group called the Pikes Peak Consortium to End Homelessness was to get a 
clearer picture of homeless demographics and evaluate whether programs are 
working.

The survey categorized people who were surveyed as "literally homeless" - 
meaning they sleep outside, in cars or in shelters - and people who are at 
"imminent risk" of becoming homeless. Those people live in transitional 
housing, cheap motels or stay with friends or family.

The survey also included in that group people who've been homeless before or 
live in subsidized housing.

Surveyors found between 806 and 853 people literally were homeless and 
between 972 and 1,204 were at risk.

A report summary prepared by the consultant, BBC Research and Consulting, 
said the city's "literally homeless" population increased 234 percent since 
1995.

But comparing the new figures to the head count in 1995 is flawed, because 
the '95 estimate was based on the best guesses made by nonprofit agencies, a 
far less scientific approach than the survey conducted in March.

Regardless, Red Cross shelter manager Jeannine Holt said all indications are 
the city's homeless population is on the rise. But she said counting the 
homeless isn't the most important thing to glean from the survey.

"If we can get to know our people better and understand what they need, 
that's going to help us," she said.

The survey uncovered trends that confirmed agency officials' gut feelings.

A growing number of families with children are in need - more so with those 
who are at risk of becoming homeless. Those who are actually homeless 
overwhelmingly are single men.

The survey found that people cited a lack of affordable housing and 
employment problems as the top reasons for their homelessness.

A finding that took some social service officials by surprise: 13 percent of 
those surveyed said they were in the midst of their first bout with 
homelessness - meaning 87 percent had experienced it more than once.

The report cites a national survey that put the first-time homelessness rate 
at 49 percent. But there are questions about whether that's a fair comparison 
because no details about the national survey's criteria were cited in the 
study.

The high number of people in Colorado Springs who have been homeless more 
than once bothered Connie Lorig of the Pikes Peak Consortium to End 
Homelessness.

"That really stuck out," she said. "Something's not working. We could be 
doing things better."