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Feb 25, 2010 6:37 AM by James Jarman

New "homeless campground" plan gets mixed reaction

A Colorado Springs city council member's helping pitch an idea that he says could help hundreds of homeless who will soon be kicked out of those tent cities along fountain creek.

The plan is to turn a former 14 acre KOA campground into a homeless campground.  City Councilman Tom Gallagher gave News First 5 a tour of the campground.  The developers buying the land think it's the perfect place for a homeless rescue camp.
    
They're trying to bring in some non-profits to help raise money and head up programs to help the homeless.

A couple of homeless men camping nearby along Fountain creek are among an estimated few hundred who will be forced to leave because of the city's new camping ban.

Dennis Taylor lost his job as a flagger at road construction sites last year, and he says he wouldn't stay at the new campground because he likes the freedom of being on his own.  We asked what he'll do when camping in the city becomes illegal.  "I guess I'll have to pay the ticket, or throw it in the trash," and he says that's what  he thinks many other homeless will do,"If they had the money to pay a ticket they wouldn't be here to begin with."

Joshua Reimer says he's a day laborer and is only able to find work a couple days a week, so he can't afford an apartment or hotel room.  He says he would use the campground if it opens, "everybody's gonna try to come if they can because they're not gonna be able to pay for the (camping) tickets, they have nowhere to go," he said.

Gallagher points out there will be rules at the campground, which may keep some people away.
   
"If you choose to misbehave, well then you're not going to be here because this is private property," said Gallagher, "Iif we allow this (to become), what do they call it?  A meth camp and heroin camp and drunk camp, then that doesn't do anybody any good."

If all goes well Gallagher and the developers think they can get the campground up and running in 90 days, but that all depends on whether they can get those non profits to work with them.

Homeward Pikes Peak, which has a $100,000 grant to get the homeless into programs and out of those tent cities, isn't sure the campground idea would work with their group's goal. "Which we think is getting them out of homelessness and into self sufficiency," said Bob Holmes, Executive Direcotr of Homeward Pikes Peak.

He says from what he's heard, it sounds like the campground plan might prolong homelessness for many people. "I see that as being counterproductive, I'm open to persuasion, but I don't see it at this point."

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