[Hpn] "Census" of Colorado Springs homeless (long)
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
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
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
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
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
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
"That really stuck out," she said. "Something's not working. We could be
doing things better."