CSPD Homeless Outreach Team in action as temperatures drop

Published: Dec. 7, 2016 at 6:59 PM MST
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Colorado weather can turn on a dime. With warm and sunny temperatures one day to below freezing and snowy conditions the next, lives are at risk.

That's where the Colorado Springs Police Department's Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) comes into play.

“We’re getting people who are homeless from outside of our community who really aren’t familiar with how quickly Colorado changes," said Lt. Jeff Jensen with the HOT team. "Members of the team educate the public with what they’re dealing with ... how quickly it can happen and why it’s important to get to warm shelter.”

HOT team is comprised of four people and a supervisor. Even though they're stationed at Gold Hill, they cover all of Colorado Springs.

"It isn't simply let's go out and write tickets and arrest people; that's not going to help solve the problem," Jensen said. "Really getting people into stable housing to transition them into more permanent housing is what our goals are."

The problem with finding that permanent housing for a self-sustainable lifestyle though, is the lack of affordable housing in the area.

However, there are several shelters across the city that house a variety of those in need. Surprisingly, those shelters are not full, despite the drop in temperatures.

The Springs Rescue Mission, located at 25 W. Las Vegas St., had room for 50 men and 20 women as of 11 a.m. on Wednesday. The Springs Rescue Mission is the only shelter in the area that allows people to bring their pets and allows those who may be intoxicated or have criminal records.

The RJ Montgomery Shelter at 709 S. Sierra Madre still had room for 28 men and 16 women Wednesday morning. The RJ Montgomery Shelter is considered medium barrier, so they don't allow people with extensive criminal records or anyone intoxicated.

The Urban Peak Shelter at 423 E. Cucharras St. accepts children younger than 18. With about 20 total beds, the youth shelter had room for four more Wednesday morning.

Between the three shelters, there are enough beds for about 500 people. Wednesday, the temperatures in Colorado Springs dipped into the single digits before 7 p.m.

“Hypothermia can set in with conditions like this very, very quickly and soft shelter tents and canvas and other items really are not going to be barriers enough to keep people safe,” Jensen explained.

According to a recent study by the HOT team, from 2014 to 2015 there was a 10 percent jump in homelessness in Colorado Springs. Next year's study will be done on January 23 and is expected to be complete in February. Right now, there are an estimated 1,300 homeless in the Springs alone.