The people no one asks about homelessness 

Long Story Short

The idea for this week's cover story, which you'll find here, came out of a bored moment in the office.

It was late 2012, and I was considering Colorado Springs' proposed ban on panhandling in the downtown area — the one that would ultimately die slowly in the courts — when I began to wonder why people chose to panhandle. There are so many other services. Why do so many people choose not to use them? What would they change about those services given a chance?

Though I've covered homelessness for many years, and though I've talked to many homeless people, I realized I didn't know exactly how to answer those questions. Now, if I were writing about a musician, I'd likely ask him his thoughts on the music industry. If I were writing about a city politician, I'd ask him about how best to run the city. But I hadn't asked any homeless people how they'd overhaul the services that are supposed to help them.

Major oversight. I decided to correct it.

I have to say, the homeless and formerly homeless people with whom I spoke proved incredibly insightful and thoughtful on this topic. Their ideas were logical, and many of them would be fairly easy to put into practice.

That said, I balked at their most offbeat idea: letting homeless people run their own shelter. I guess after seeing the top-down approach for so long, it just seemed crazy.

But then, who knows? Maybe it was crazy enough to work.


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