COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Some Coloradans have recently gained increased scrutiny after a Colorado county sheriff said residents should not help them. That sheriff was talking about panhandlers.
It was an opinion widely debated by social media users with some saying homeless people do not need help while others said people should go out of their way to help.
Here in Colorado Springs, there is good news when it comes to the current number of homeless people.
“We are reducing homelessness where other parts of the country, homelessness is actually growing,” Springs Rescue Mission President/CEO Jack Briggs said.
But that reduction isn’t happening on its own. It’s due to a collaborative effort from the city, service organizations, and the Colorado Springs Police Department (CSPD).
“We have the ability to give them food,” Briggs explained. “We have the ability to give them clean, safe, dry shelter. We can get them into a process that can actually improve their situation.”
For many homeless people, being without a home wasn’t a choice.
“First time in prison, first time on parole, first time being homeless,” one homeless person told FOX21. “I know if my mom would see me now she would tell me to come home.”
Others say it was a choice and they refuse to receive help.
“I don’t need help,” another homeless person said. “I’ve got everything I need.”
Officers say most of Colorado Springs’ homeless population tries to stay out of trouble. However, there are some who seem to go out of their way to causes issues.
“The two or three hundred hardcore ones, they’re the ones that usually are involved in some kind of criminal activity,” Sgt. Olav Chaney said. ‘There’s a lot of homeless people out here that really just want the help.”
According to the Rescue Mission, handing out money to people on the streets doesn’t help.
“Handing somebody something on the corner isn’t going to change their situation,” Briggs said.
The Rescue Mission said while some homeless people are searching for a few bucks for cigarettes, beer, and other non-necessities, others truly need help.
But what does “help” mean? According to Briggs, it’s as simple as starting a conversation.
“I might roll down the window and say ‘Hey, what’s your name? Have you heard about the Rescue Mission? I saw it on TV and I understand they have help.”
It’s a tactic that CSPD has been using and is starting to make an impact.
“We also provided them with resources available as well as we had one of the case managers from Homeward Pikes Peak out here to talk to them if they wanted to have a conversation about looking to get into housing and things like that,” Chaney explained.
“We’re always open and we provide a pathway for folks out of homelessness, addiction and poverty,” Briggs said.
According to CSPD and the Springs Rescue Mission, there are always beds available for people who need a place to stay. You can find more information about Springs Rescue Mission and CSPD’s Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) by visiting their websites.