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Pueblo City Council dedicates work session to homelessness, bringing stakeholders together

Posted at 1:01 AM, Mar 21, 2023

PUEBLO — Pueblo City Council dedicated its work session Monday night to discussing solutions to homelessness in the city.

Councilmembers heard presentations from many stakeholders, including Pueblo Rescue Mission, Health Solutions, Pueblo Parks and Recreation, Pueblo Police Department, City Code Enforcement, and comment from the public.

A big topic discussed was clean-ups of homeless encampments near Fountain Creek. Karen Willson, the Code Enforcement Manager for the Pueblo Police Department, said cleaning up homeless camps is an added duty that Code Enforcement performs with no extra funding or manpower. Willson said moving forward crews are going to perform weekly cleanups at start-up camps instead of larger cleanups less often.

"Notoriously, a cleanup waits until the problem is massive. The cleanup that we are able to do is time-limited and it ends up being fairly superficial. The thought process is if we can tackle them on a smaller level before they become entrenched and big, maybe that would help that problem," she said.

Lynnae Trujillo, a case manager with Pueblo Rescue Mission, said that encampment clean-ups are a short-term solution for a complex issue.

"Honestly, they [those experiencing homelessness] just move along to another place," she said. "I just see it creating more issues and then pushing them to do crime because they're trying to figure out what they're gonna do and what their next move is."

Melanie Rapier, executive director of Pueblo Rescue Mission, presented during the work session about the underlying causes of homelessness, including substance use, mental illness, and generational poverty. Pueblo Police Chief Chris Noeller agreed that solutions to homelessness need to come from addressing these underlying factors and that there is a disconnect between resources and those in need.

Business owners also expressed concerns Monday night about people experiencing homelessness in the city driving away customers. Councilmembers said business owners should utilize 988, a crisis prevention hotline, for issues near their business. However, councilmembers said there should be specific resources given to business owners to take care of other issues not addressed by the hotline, including loitering.

Pueblo City Council President Heather Graham said the council has submitted more grants to address homelessness and aims to continue to have more work sessions addressing homelessness with public involvement.

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