Monday, November 7, 2011

Starting up for Real

Hello all,
I'm starting to run this blog on a regular basis now. I am in the process of closing down the website "Avenues of Escape", that focused on homelessness in the Colorado Springs region. Attached to that website was the Email Discussion List. We've had as many as 120 members but between my being the main (95%) contributor, a couple of hackings, the rising expenses of maintaining the website and declining interest, I am calling it a day, after just about ten years. When I started the site, and the Discussion List, in 2001, homelessness was a "hot issue". As the List started up, we had a half decade or so of rapid expansion of services, as we created agencies like Colorado House, Harbor House, Crawford House and Urban Peak. The Salvation Army took over the operation of the Montgomery Center, our main emergency shelter and improved services. We created Homeward Pikes Peak. I'm proud to say I helped find the inspiration for this community "homeless services oversight" agency by finding and communicating with Homeward Richmond. Setting up Homeward Pikes Peak was the final act of the Southern Colorado Commission on Homelessness. This commission was created by the El Pomar Foundation after the hotly contested "mega-shelter" concept was abandoned by El Pomar. The creation of Homeward Pikes Peak was one of five recommendations the Commission made to El Pomar and the City of Colorado Springs.

I have to say, after that lively five years, we, as a community have kind of slowed down in our momentum in both the creation of services and the conversations about what more can be done. I personally have given up on seeing the last bit of possible services I found in my research of "what's out there". The idea of "community case management" and/or the issuing of "homeless ID cards" is NOT going to happen in this town. It has been successfully demonstrated in Clearwater, Florida (Homeward even flew the director of that system out here to speak to the agency heads about six years ago). It also is working well in the Saint Paul area. Because the Soup Kitchen has declared that the handouts will always be limitless and 'no questions asked', even if we set up a card system, it would be undermined by a culture of "freebies" in our community. As I am fond of saying: "this town has two well-established tracks of service for the homeless - the Stay on the street track and the get OFF the street track." These opposing tracks of service are offered by the same agencies.....As long as we remain "one of the best towns to be homeless in", things will not seriously improve as far as moving folks OFF our streets. At one time a stated goal of our community was "To be known as a good place to exit homelessness and a bad place to pursue a homeless lifestyle." We sure don't hear much of THAT anymore!

I believe the Discussion List felt the effects of these doldrums of the last few years. I will, of course, continue to follow the efforts of our providers to help folks off our streets. I personally, have left the "front lines" after my disability really set in. (That 'adventure' will be the topic of another Blog entry or two!) I continue to sit on a few Boards in town here but that's about it. I'm sure I'll recount a story or two from my almost 40 years of working in Colorado Springs in a number of volunteer (and a few paid) positions. It all started in early 1972, when I was settling into this quiet little town after a tour in VietNam as a medic. While this is not a "discussion list", thoughtful comments are welcome here at this Blog. Welcome aboard!

While homelessness will be a recurring topic here, I'll be commenting on a LOT more. I have a variety of interests and still pursue a number of them. Even "things in past" might be of interest to my readers. Thank you for being a part of the conversation.
(and we'll see you at this Thursday's CHAP meeting!) -Matt

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