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SOCO Student Media from Colorado State University Pueblo

The Today

SOCO Student Media from Colorado State University Pueblo

The Today

SOCO Student Media from Colorado State University Pueblo

The Today

Pueblo City Council Meeting: Pueblo Homelessness Hearing

By Cidonia Ponce

Pueblo’s City Council hosted a work session hearing on the 20th of March that regarded homelessness in our city. Every second and fourth of each month, Pueblo City Council hosts these meetings and invites the community to speak on pressing issues that are happening around Pueblo.

Heather Graham, Pueblo City Council’s Representative at Large – President, started the meeting by jumping into the perspective of community members when considering homelessness. Each person who volunteered to speak on the issue were given three minutes to share any observations and concerns of any recent homelessness activities happening around the city. Graham advised the public to be respectful and kind when speaking on the issue. “We are all here together to come up with solutions to deal with homelessness in Pueblo, and I know this is a hot topic right now but lets work together to get some help for our homeless population,” Grahamcommented.

Derrick Stoll, who is originally from San Diego but now a Pueblo community member, wrote a powerful letter with his personal concerns for the homeless population and some possible solutions. “I’m here to humbly ask that this town of Pueblo, Colorado have a heart and care for our neighbors,” Stoll started. “This is not a homeless problem so much as an unhoused crisis, that as you’ve noticed, is not going to go away. Sweeping away or legislating and criminalizing is only a band aid and not a solution.” 

Stoll continued his letter by going into accommodations for homelessness, pallet shelter communities and single room occupancy hotels. “I grew up with these in San Diego, and they are a very economical solution for unhoused individuals,” Stoll stated. Stoll continued to mention that these solutions can easily work if the city applied the needed resources. “We have the resources, why aren’t we doing this,” Stoll asked in a fierce manner. 

Jimmy Duffner, another local Pueblo resident who is also an advocate for the unhoused, focused his concerns on the criminal aspect that the homeless community is facing. “I believe that these police sweeps that are going on are unconstitutional and should be discontinued,” Duffner strongly stated. Duffner also mentioned that these homeless people are also getting charged with fines that he believes should be dismissed. “Punishing them for not having a place to sleep or use the restroom is senseless,” Duffner stated. 

Duffner also explained the efforts he has personally taken to get some resources to the homeless community. “I am here advocating for safe camping and parking sites which will give the homeless community access to resources to try and promote them getting the legal and identification help they need along with jobs,” Duffner mentioned. 

Paul Montoya, who is a pastor and an avid advocate for homelessness in Pueblo, Colorado for the past 13 years has shared his thoughts and troubled concerns when thinking about homelessness. Montoya informed the city council members that he just received a 5013C to get some resources to this troubled community. “It’s going to be people helping people in faith of the Pueblo community,” Montoya stated. “I have the homeless people picking up their own trash from 8th street to Santa Fe bridge. There are over 200 bags of trash that they’ve picked since January, and if you drive by that area, you will see the difference.” Montoya mentioned. 

Not only did people in the community share their input, but also organizations gave speeches and presentations regarding the issue.

Kim Bowman, the executive director of POSADA. “POSADA provides emergency shelter to families with children, transitional housing and permanent housing to homeless and low-income families with children, veterans, youth and seniors,” Bowman commented. Bowman mentioned the impact that POSADA has served in our community. “We maintain 119 units of affordable housing in the community with an additional 102 units under development at this time,” Bowman stated. 

Though this was very impactful, Bowman continued to comment on the pressing issues that persist. “Our community has less than 2% availability of affordable housing. We are experiencing a supply and demand problem,” Bowman stated. Bowman strengthened her argument by stating that one-bedroom apartments are not affordable to our low-income community. “Our agency is dealing with a population that is economically challenged in a community with minimal housing resources,” Bowman commented. 

The Pueblo Rescue Mission followed with a presentation that explained the impact and current agendas that are being made. Melanie Rapier is Pueblo Rescue Mission’s executive director and presented the purpose and concerns that go along with homelessness. “I looked at the reason why people were coming to the shelter through a revolving door and those issues ended up being substance use, mental illness, and poor financial management,” Rapier stated.

Not only are these the issues that the homelessness community is facing, but they also lack day-to-day life skills. The Pueblo Rescue Mission requires these individuals to take part in some programs that will help them get back on their feet. The organization has a Step Back in Program that includes resources for assisting with physical wellness, mental wellness, addiction/recovery, financial stewardship, civic responsibility, community conscious, transactional recognition as well as social engagement. “We need to get them stable so that way they can sustain the housing that they get,” Rapier stated. “Everything in my shelter is transactional, meaning I’ll pour into you if you pour into you,” Rapier commented. Not only are the individuals required to engage in these programs, but there are also ways to earn incentives as well, through “amazing dollars” where individuals are able to have flexible spending on personal items and necessities when actively engaging in these programs. 

The Pueblo Rescue Mission hosts these programs once a day every day of the week. However, Rapier mentioned that just because these people don’t engage in these specific programs, they will still allow that individual shelter for the night. “I am an emergency shelter, I am a low barrier shelter meaning the bar is not set any lower for what you need to do to come in and receive shelter,” Rapier mentioned. Sheltering begins every night at 9 p.m. for the 365 days of the year. When the individual comes in, they are searched and any personal items that may be harmful or dangerous are detained. “I am not going to deny someone shelter just because of their addiction and poor choices or because they’re walking around with a machete for their own safety,” Rapier stated. However, the Pueblo Rescue Mission still does more than just that. They ensure that these individuals have a place to sleep with their own bed, clean linens, and a meal for the day whether that’s breakfast, lunch or dinner. The Pueblo Rescue Mission is currently serving 47 homeless residents with 60 male beds and 35 female beds. “We try to help anyone that we can,” Rapier commented.  There are so many other services that are provided by the Pueblo Rescue Mission but it all requires the will to want to get help. 

Proceeding after Rapier were other influential organizations and programs that have also done their best with maintaining homelessness in Pueblo, Colorado. Many of these organizations include the Pueblo Police Department, Health Solutions, Team up to Clean up and others who have made efforts to minimize the homelessness in our city. For more information about these sessions or to watch archived meetings, visit Pueblo City Council’s website by searching for www.pueblo.us. The next council meeting will be streamed and is set to take place on Monday, April 10th.

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