City Council has agreed to fund a homeless program that puts individuals in local hotels and requires them to look for a job.
Councilors gave their informal consent to spending $50,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant funds on the program, which is being administered by Homeward Pikes Peak Executive Director Bob Holmes.
Councilors agreed they did not want to spend general fund dollars on the program, but were convinced to spend the CDBG money, which can only be used for certain purposes.
Staff explained that the city had received $200,000 more than was budgeted for CDBG funding this year. Of that, only $50,000 was eligible to be used for social services, such as the homeless program. There had not been an influx of requests for the funding.
Additionally, no CDBG money can be used to pay for something that was once funded by the general fund. So the money could not be used to pay police or firefighters, turn on streetlights, restore bus service, water parks, or fund community centers.
Staff said they would work to secure the funds for the homeless program — which is based out of the Express Inn on Eighth Street — as quickly as possible. Holmes says the program only has two weeks of funding left. He hopes to raise another $100,000 from other sources — including El Paso County — allowing him to continue the program through October.
Holmes told Council that funding the program was the right thing to do from a fiscal standpoint, because it kept the homeless from using government services like police, fire and ambulances, which is an expensive problem for local governments. Additionally, as the homeless get jobs, he says, they contribute to the economy and pay taxes.
Holmes' program has helped hundreds of homeless and has been an invaluable resource since the police began shutting down homeless camps following the passage of a no-camping ordinance earlier this year. So far, 81 of the program's participants have gotten jobs.