COLORADO SPRINGS – The 11 candidates seeking the 3 At-Large seats on Colorado Springs City Council met for a live forum Friday night on News5’s broadcast and digital platforms.
Along with discussing affordable housing, continued population growth in the city, and the future of the Martin Drake Power Plant, the candidates were asked what measures they think are in order to address the issue of a growing homeless population.
The city has recently enacted a camping ban near waterways, increased services by partnering with non-profits, and funded operations to provide more low barrier shelter beds. However, there is a continual effort to clear out and clean up unsafe camping sites in the city.
Regina English says she understands some people are happy living outside, but “they need to move and go camp out in another city.” She would like the city to provide more support and resources to those that cannot help themselves, such as women, children and families, “so they can get back to some normalcy.”
Tom Strand wants to stick to the city homeless action plan which includes methods on determing how best to help different segments of the homeless population. He’d like to get help to women, children, families and veterans. When it comes to those who do not want jobs, housing solutions, and are a continued problem for city departments, he says, “this is a population we need to deal with in a more forceful manner.”
Terry Martinez says we need to develop relationships with people in the homeless community what programs that will help them the most. To find solutions for the chronic homeless, he recommends reaching out to other cities for new ideas.
Athena Roe wants to work towards long term solutions to address issues with mental illness in the community. She says groups that are specifically in the downtown area, “we do need to move them out” to address the concerns of businesses and people who frequent the area. For solutions, she would like to advance partnerships with non-profit organizations.
Tony Gioia spoke of using a smarter approach to create “stable living conditions” for segments of the population who are looking for a way out of homelessness. He referred to it as a “moral and fiscal responsibility. For those who do not want help, he says “it might be time for them to take a hike, you know the ‘People’s Republic of Boulder’ might like to take them in.”
Bill Murray says this is an example of ‘build it and they don’t want to come” in reference to shelters and resources recently developed in coordination with partner organizations. Murray says the homeless community in general is not taking advantage of these resources, despite recent work by council. He would like those who don’t want help or a change in their situation to “please move on.”
Gordon Klingenschmitt believes we need to find solutions to compassionately help the homeless, such as his actions as a Navy chaplain and a member of the ministry. He wants to work alongside existing organizations to help, as well as working with law enforcement to make sure people are not “harassed on the public streets.”
Val Snider says the city already has a homeless action plan in place that in coordination with Plan COS will address these problems. He says the feedback he’s received suggests there needs to be more aggressive law enforcement actions against the chronic homeless. “They need to be corralled, if you will. They need to find places to put them. The chronic homeless need to be dealt with a little harsher with increased law enforcement, based on the feedback I get.”
Wayne Williams supports the items listed in the city’s homeless action plan, along with supporting local non-profits that conduct outreach efforts. He also supports helping people on a case-by-case basis to find solutions.
Randy Tuck says “this is a huge problem” which he would like an action committee put together to plan methods to reach out for solutions, as part of the effort we need an accurate count of the homeless population.
Dennis Spiker wants the city to increase the number of personnel on the Colorado Springs Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Team to help people get off the streets and take advantage of low barrier beds available. He also supports out of the box thinking like tiny home villages seen in other cities. When it comes to people “who don’t abide by our laws they need to be dealt with by the police department.”