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Could lack of homeless shelter lead to more squatters?

Posted at 10:38 PM, Oct 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-20 00:59:24-04

PUEBLO – The City of Pueblo is scrambling to try and find a temporary warming shelter now that plans for a permanent facility have been scrapped.

But new information suggests that lack of any kind of shelter from the snow and cold could be dangerous for the entire community.

Police tell News 5 if there isn’t a place for them to stay, homeless folks could resort to seek shelter in vacant homes.

We’ve seen it before: fires raging inside vacant homes, firefighters finding traces of squatters after the fact and neighbors caught off guard.

“They didn’t even know what was going on, what woke up the neighbors was people running and then they look out and they see the house that these people were staying in was on fire,” said Sergeant Franklyn Ortega with Pueblo Police Department.
“So it’s one of those things where they didn’t even know if there was people still in there or not.”

Police say they see this happen more in the winter months.

“We see it throughout the year but obviously it gets a little more pronounced when it gets colder,” Ortega added.

The City of Pueblo hoped to have a permanent homeless shelter ready but the locations they chose didn’t pass inspection.

So now, they’re working on opening a temporary warming shelter by early December.

“Right now priority number one has to be a temporary warming shelter to get us through the winter,” said Councilman Mark Aliff with Pueblo City Council.

Aliff told News 5 more squatting situations are a very good possibility this winter.

While police patrol known hot spots, they say the best way to prevent this from happening in your neighborhood is to keep an eye out and report anything suspicious.

“The [homes] that are damaged and that are known to us, we check those periodically,” Ortega explained.
“But the ones that are not, those are the ones that we need help with.”

Right now, police are hopeful a solution is on the way.

“I’m very optimistic that something will work out,” Ortega said.
“I don’t know exactly what it will be. But I’m pretty sure that it’ll happen.”

Aliff says as of right now, there are no updates regarding the possible location of a temporary warming shelter but he adds “everyone is working on it.”