Last year, Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach created a stir when he vowed to end local homelessness while he was in office.
He later revised his statement, saying he'd unveil a plan to address homelessness at the start of 2014. And senior economic vitality specialist Aimee Cox says the mayor plans to follow through on that promise sometime this month.
Cox says Bach will unveil a set of broad priorities that will help the city direct funding it receives from the federal government to local nonprofits that serve the homeless. Currently, the city simply hands over funds to Pikes Peak United Way, which then redirects the money via grants, many of them tiny. Cox says the hope is that setting priorities will allow the city to make a bigger impact in the highest-need areas.
"This just addresses things that we think are so urgent at this point that they can't be ignored," she says.
One priority that's likely to make the list is shelter beds. The city has lost around 120 shelter beds in the last year because the Aztec Motel closed, and Set Free Ministries declined to open an emergency winter shelter. Both sites had been on Platte Avenue.
Cox says the mayor's priorities represent one part of a larger process that is largely being driven by changes to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funding requirements. After setting priorities, the city will organize a governance structure around a "continuum of care" provider, that being Pikes Peak United Way. Once the structure is in place, the city will help assemble a 10-year plan to address homelessness, also a HUD requirement.
Following HUD rules will allow the city to qualify for discretionary funding in the future that could help pay for more services and centers. Cox says the city will also re-examine the base funding it gets from the federal government. While restrictions exist on many of those funds, more money may be able to be directed to the city's poor, especially if what's needed are brick-and-mortar projects.
Cox adds that the city does not plan to act as a direct service provider.