COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — The number of people experiencing homelessness in Colorado Springs fell for a second straight year. The 1,156 people counted in this year's Point in Time (PIT) survey is 174 fewer than that population estimate in 2020.
However, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development waived the requirement to count people who are considered unsheltered meaning the true number is likely higher. In 2020, that population was estimated to be around 358 individuals.
The federally mandated survey is conducted every year in January by Community Health Partnership (CHP.)
Evan Caster, Manager for Homeless Initiatives for CHP, explained that the decision to waive the unsheltered population was based on safety.
"It really comes from protecting the people who are unsheltered in our community as well as the volunteers, we usually get around 120-150 every year to do those surveys in our community," he said.
The PIT count is seen as a snapshot measured once for an entire year. Caster said the region's multi-agency Pikes Peak Continuum of Care has been working with the Built for Zero initiative to acquire better data about homelessness in the community and to strive for better outcomes.
"We have some great data on veteran and youth homelessness right now that we're really trying to shift the narrative away from just one night in January," he said.
During the first half of 2021, the data show a monthly average of 314 households in Colorado Springs with at least one veteran that was homeless. A monthly average of 281 individuals between the ages of 18 and 24 years were also reported as homeless during that same time frame.
The Built for Zero movement is backed by the NYC-based non-profit Community Solutions. Their goal is to reduce homeless populations to a functional zero level where those who do end up homeless do not remain that way for long.
To that end, the city also celebrated the groundbreaking of a new 120-unit multi-family housing development called The Commons. The complex will offer a mix of affordable housing units and what are known as permanent supportive housing units.
The idea behind permanent supportive housing is to house people experiencing chronic homelessness first before working with those residents to address any underlying mental or behavioral health needs.
The first 50 units built at the Commons will be permanent supportive housing units that join the 65-unit Greenway Flats apartments which opened on the Springs Rescue Mission Campus in 2019.
Andy Barton, Chair of the Pikes Peak Continuum of Care Board said one of the key areas of focus under the Built for Zero movement is to help people avoid falling into homelessness in the first place.
"We're going to start to see some really meaningful change because it's much better to focus on how we prevent, how we divert, how we decrease time than just to each year focus on a number in January," he said.
All of the data is gathered into the city's Homeless Management Information System. In 2020, some 7,741 unique households accessed that system for services or housing support related to homelessness.