COLORADO SPRINGS — Camping on public property in Colorado Springs has been illegal for years, so long as beds are available at area shelters. The Colorado Springs Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Team goes out in teams of two, five days a week, to enforce the No Camping ordinance and to connect people who are experiencing homelessness with a variety of available resources in the area.
So, it was a bit of a surprise to see a notice, recently posted in a public Facebook group, calling for a 5 a.m. protest on Saturday morning in Dorchester Park – an area, in close promiximity to the Springs Rescue Mission – routinely inhabited by members of our homeless community.
“I was aware [of the protest],” said Lt. Mike Lux, who supervises the CSPD HOT Team. “People have a right to protest, we have no issue with that.”
But Lux said the area in question, referred to as “the Wetland,” borders Dorchester Park and the Springs Rescue Mission’s campus, and is commonly visited by HOT Team officers – in fact, he said, they’re there every other day.
“It is so heavily occupied by homeless setting up camps. It’s not uncommon for us to be down there and posting signs. We’re giving them options to move within 24 hours,” Lux said. His officers also ride with Street Outreach workers from Homeward Pikes Peak, who can not only connect people in need with resources, but also track their progress and meet additional needs.
The HOT Team also works in close partnership with the Springs Rescue Mission, where 150 beds were available as of Friday afternoon.
“We do our best to be a low barrier, come-as-you-are shelter,” said Travis Williams, with SRM. “So, regardless of what you’re bringing into the Rescue Mission, we’re going to do our best to meet you right where you’re at, and point you to services that can really help you.”
Williams said misconceptions may keep some people out of SRM, but clarified the shelter is diligently cleaned, provides kennels for pets, three meals a day, and much more. But, he said, even if someone does not want to stay at SRM, they can still take advantages of services such as health and dental care.
“All folks have to do is come to the Rescue Mission and engage in our resource center and make an appointment and they’re able to be seen and cared for,” Williams said.
And for those who are new to the Springs and unaware of where to go to find shelter, Lt. Lux said the HOT Team is there to help, especially as temperatures drop.
“On cold days, the HOT Team actually goes out there really looking for people in camps or on the trails — we don’t write [tickets] on those cold days,” Lux said. “We try to give people rides inside and get them out of the cold.”