Colorado Springs, as a community, is currently grappling with the problem of chronic homelessness, as evidenced by the “campers” in our parks and wetlands. The Marian House is hosting a pair of evening meetings for all to discuss the issue and put forth ideas. My puzzlement is why has not our community seized on an idea that is successful in other communities — the “homeless card system.” This system, requires every person seeking to benefit from community generosity, to first talk to a case manager regarding his/her problem and what needs to take place to end that persons’ homelessness. The person is then guided to the agencies that will serve him or her best and supplied with an ID card. The card expires unless updated with periodic visits to the person’s case manager. The “card” seems to be welcomed by the homeless populations where it is used. Statements like:
“For the first time in a long time, I feel like I belong somewhere” are heard from the homeless cardholders. Yes, a few “bad actors” are screened out but even the rest of the homeless using the services are happy to see them go.
Clearwater, Florida is one such community using this system, since the late 1990s. In 2004, Homeward Pikes Peak brought the Director of that system, Ed Brandt, to Colorado Springs to speak to all our providers about the successes they have enjoyed with the system. Why has there been NO progress in the last six years toward putting this proven system in place?
Such a system would insure better services for those trying to leave our streets and curtail the flood of handouts that have so greatly expanded the numbers of the chronic homeless in our community. There is no reason why any hand out, whether a bowl of soup, a blanket, a shower or a bed for the night, can’t be tied to an “avenue of escape” from our streets. Our community has two “homeless service tracks: the “Get OFF the street track” and the “Stay ON the street track”. Both of these pathways have plenty of support. I am tired of living in the “Best city in the country to be homeless in” and want to see a lot more of the first track and a lot less of the second.
At this point in time, with all the concern about the “campers,” we have a real opportunity to explore and implement this proven idea.
Matthew Parkhouse, Colorado Springs