SOUTHERN COLORADO – We’re learning more about the homeless crisis in Colorado.
The latest survey numbers show our state is near the top of the list across the country in the number of homeless people.
News 5’s Jessica Barreto talked to Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers to find out what the city is doing about it.
Mayor Suthers says surveys show a lot of the homeless are coming here for recreational marijuana, even though it’s not legal in Colorado Springs.
So the city is launching new programs under the 2019 Homeless Initiative.
Colorado is tenth in the nation for the highest amount of homeless people, with more than 10,000 according to the 2018 point in time survey.
Colorado Springs is trying to find ways to help, especially with illegal camping, by having more low-barrier shelter beds, bringing the number up to 670.
“When you prohibit someone from camping, you have to be able to offer them a shelter bed,” Suthers said.
They’ve also established a homeless diversion program in the courts so folks who can’t pay fines can get help.
“Refer them to drug counseling if that’s what’s needed, to mental health counseling or treatment if that’s what’s needed,” he explained.
Suthers says the problem is that a lot of those considered chronically homeless aren’t receptive to help.
“Because of their mental health issues, and their drug addiction issues, [they] don’t want to be sheltered,” he pointed out.
“And for them, we’re going to have to just take a hard line and say ‘Look, you cannot camp.'”
And even though eliminating homelessness isn’t realistic, Suthers says decreasing its impact is.
“It’s really the job of myself and other people to help those that want to be helped and to mitigate the adverse effects for our law-abiding citizens that want to enjoy our community.”
We’re expecting new numbers in May, with another report with more analysis will come after that.
This will give the state a better idea of how to improve their outreach programs