PUEBLO — Multiple organizations are starting a week-long effort on Monday to clean up areas near Fountain Creek in Pueblo, where trash buildup and human waste are causes for public health concerns.
The Pueblo Police Department will lead the clean-up and said most of the trash comes from homeless encampments and people living near the river basin.
Captain Dustin Taylor, the spokesperson for the Police Department, said they regularly receive calls from people concerned about a large amount of trash in the area.
He said they are addressing the problem this week by visiting with people living at the camps and aim to reduce any fire hazards in the area.
"I think the biggest thing is we want to make sure that they're safe, especially coming into a colder time of the year," said Taylor. "Those that are staying along the river have to keep warm, and in some cases when that happens, propane tanks and things like that do explode. We've seen instances where somebody who is living in a homeless lifestyle loses everything that they have, and we want to help try to prevent that."
Taylor said the department is also clearing out underbrush near the creek, which can easily become a fire hazard. Along with cleaning up the area, police and other organizations are spending time talking to people about available resources, including mental health, substance abuse, and housing resources.
Pueblo Triple Aim, a nonprofit providing housing services, is one of those meeting with people Monday to provide resources. Executive Director Alexis Ellis said there is no overnight solution for people needing housing, and there is a long waitlist for housing options in Pueblo.
"There are 169 people that are currently on that list. What they would be able to do is get lined up for things that might be vouchers, and might be permanent supportive housing. There are a few different options that the community has," Ellis said.
She said she hasn't seen that waiting list for housing cleared in the four years she has been with Triple Aim. Pueblo Rescue Mission is a low-barrier shelter in the area with limited openings for those experiencing homelessness. However, Ellis said the goal is to provide transitional housing and, eventually, permanent housing options for people in need.
"It takes time for people to get housed. It does go by order of vulnerability and for programs that people will be more successful," she said.
The goal of these clean-ups is to avoid situations like the homeless encampment fire that broke out a week ago in the Stratmoor Hills area near South Academy and I-25.
KOAA reported on the fire last week that destroyed several tents, cars, and RVs. Firefighters said around 50 propane tanks exploded because of the heat from the flames. They said the fire likely would have spread into nearby neighborhoods had fire danger been high that day.
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