Habitat ECS | The Need for a More United Community
Today, our second week of the ECS has started. With more information than the first week, we went to downtown Colorado Springs and there, we had two speakers, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. First, we went to talk with Claire Swinford, the Urban Engagement Manager working for the Downtown Partnership, which is the leading catalytic champion for Downtown Colorado Springs, with a wide variety of programs and services. Their mission is to ensure that downtown serves as the economic, civic and cultural heart of Colorado Springs. Ms. Swinford explained to us some methods that they are trying to use in terms of helping homelessness, and also some issues that are in the center of the city such as wrong perceptions.
One method which they try to employ every year is to reform and make public places nice. Hopefully by doing this, more people will want to go to these places even though there may be some people who are experiencing homelessness or other adults and kids. She also talked about how some people, who often are owners of stores, complain about people experiencing homelessness who are sitting on the streets or other places because they are around Downtown which is the most dense place in town. Other people also complain about them because they think they are dangerous, but most of the times they are not. Downtown Partnership wants to help them but also they want to have a clean and safe downtown.
After our first speech of the day, we went to the public library and it was a good chance to see how some homeless people were hanging out and meeting there. It is also a place where they can charge phones, read books, or apply for some jobs with the computers. We also did some research on some books about homelessness, trying to find new things to broaden our own knowledge.
After our nice lunch in Acacia Park, we had another speaker. His name is Andy Phelps and he is the person who coordinates the Homelessness Response Action plan to the regional effort to prevent homelessness, as well as responses to issues or needs that arise from people experiencing homelessness. There, we learned the goals that the City of Colorado Springs has with the purpose to help homelessness and end it. There are at least 1,551 in Colorado Springs and 513 of those are unsheltered.
Their main goals of their Homelessness Response Action plan are as follows: continue educating people, add more low barrier shelter beds, implement a Homeless Outreach Court, establish a veteran incentive fund to reach the functional zero, make a plan for affordable housing, get the support for funding a homeless work program with area non-profit, add neighborhood services to clean illegal camps and develop a help team for downtown and Old Colorado City areas. Mr. Phelps was also excited for the new program named Greenway Flats, which is a complex with some apartments that will be provided to 65 people experiencing homelessness. The idea of these apartments is to use them to transition people through the facility of housing and get them off the streets.
As we heard the first week, housing is a basic human right, and with this new program many homeless people will get an apartment. I think the City of Colorado Springs has good programs and they have ones for the future. As Mr. Phelps said, “Give people at least the choice.” There has to be a more united community and all together, we should help them and give them some chances because they deserve them. Another theme that I heard last week many times and I’ve heard today too is how important education is. An education can get many people off the streets. It provides a greater chance to get a full-time job and in general a better life.
In conclusion, it has been a great and effective day. We learned more about downtown and the goals that the city has which we did not hear before. I realized how there could be more than one solution for ending homelessness, and that we should be more united as a community.
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