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Colorado Springs program inside municipal court aims to end cycle of homelessness

Posted at 10:58 PM, Mar 04, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-06 08:10:10-05

COLORADO SPRINGS — The Colorado Springs Municipal Court is trying to connect people experiencing homelessness with services instead of seeing them back in courtrooms.

The Transition Assistance Program helps people find shelter, mental health resources, substance abuse programs and more through an outreach table located inside the municipal court building on East Kiowa Street in downtown Colorado Springs.

Navigators with the Colorado Springs Fire Department (CSFD) run the outreach table four days a week. The goal is to talk with people experiencing homelessness after they appear in court for a citation, which could be for anything from trespassing to shoplifting.

Presiding Municipal Judge HayDen William Kane II said the court rarely imposes fines on the homeless population because they will not be able to pay it. He said the court has seen a cycle of homeless individuals missing court dates and ending up in jail after a warrant goes out for their arrest. Judge Kane said the court is hoping to stop this cycle by having resources conveniently placed for them when they show up for court.

Judge Kane said attorneys will often lessen the person's punishment if they go to the outreach table to get help.

"Most of this is voluntary and so that, again, makes it that much more successful and the numbers bear that out," said Judge Kane.

He said when the program started in 2022, navigators helped 112 people get resources. In 2023, that number jumped to 294 people who visited the outreach table. Judge Kane said another reason for the program's success is the trust CSFD has gained with the homeless population.

Although the number of people getting help has more than doubled, Judge Kane said the court is looking to expand the program. He said only 40% of people experiencing homelessness show up to their court date after receiving a citation. He said with the help of a $10,000 grant, the program will open up an outreach table at the El Paso County Jail in the next few months.

"If we're having this kind of success with four out of 10, why wouldn't we have those same assets down at CJC, the Criminal Justice Center, when people are released after being picked up on a warrant," said Judge Kane.

He said the grant money will also go toward funding a program to help people get state identification cards.

The Transition Assistance Program table is open four days a week from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. outside Division 2 in the Municipal Court building.
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