Construction of homeless housing to begin this Spring - KOAA.com | Continuous News | Colorado Springs and Pueblo

Construction of homeless housing to begin this Spring

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It was a late night emergency. Last Saturday around 1:30 a.m. a propane bottle exploded inside a tent at homeless along Fountain Creek south of the power plant. It catching the fabric of a tent on fire and burned its owner.

A camper who goes by the name Crow told News 5 his neighbor Tony was refilling small propane bottles from a larger tank for fellow campers to use in cook stoves that keep themselves warm.

"I hear Tony say, everybody get out it's gonna blow, the valve stem is stuck on the tank and it burst up in flames and that's when he got burnt," Crow said.

Three tents were destroyed by the fire. Last year the Colorado Springs Fire Department responded to more than 300 fires in homeless camps.  As a result, Council banned warming fires.  The group Blackbird Outreach began giving propane bottles to the campers to help them survive the freezing winter nights.

"We don't want to see anybody camping outside either," said Blackbird volunteer Trygve Bundgaard. "We would rather not deliver propane to a single human being trapped outside. We don't know what to do."

He said even if the campers wanted to come in out of the cold, there just isn't enough room in the city's shelters for all of them. In the 2017 Point in Time Survey, some 457 people were counted as living unsheltered. At best, the shelters had room for another 70 people.

"If there was one misunderstanding that should be corrected in our City is we absolutely do not have appropriate shelter capacity for everyone who is camping, cannot be outside," Bundgaard said.

There's hope that the city will soon have a little more room for the homeless.

Beth Hall Roalstad of Homeward Pikes Peak said that private developers and non-profit groups are getting ready to break ground on a pair of new apartment projects just to provide what's known as permanent supportive housing for the homeless.

"You take someone off the streets or from outside or shelters right away into housing and then you provide wrap-around services. And those services can be access to health care, access to substance abuse treatment or mental health care," Roalstad explained.

Other wrap-around services may include career counseling and job training. The services are all voluntary and are not a condition of someone receiving housing. A total of 115 units are planned as part of the two projects.

The first is the 65 unit Greenway Flats to be built by Nor'wood Development Group on the campus of the Springs Rescue Mission on South Las Vegas Street. The 50 unit Freedom Springs Apartments will be built by Vecino Group near the Powers Boulevard corridor and will be specifically offered to homeless veterans.

"They should be opening their doors in 2019," Hall Roalstad said. "I know it's not enough but organizations had to get at capacity to propose these projects to get the funding from the state, it's a tax credit project."

The new apartment units should free up bed space at the emergency shelters, making more room for campers to come in out of the cold. Hall Roalstad explained that the vision is for participants in the housing program to get back on their feet and into low-income housing, creating a clear pathway up out of poverty for the city's poorest.

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