Marijuana tax helping homeless in Pueblo

Published: May. 18, 2016 at 11:14 PM MDT
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Pueblo is all too familiar with homelessness in its city, but now they will be getting some help to mitigate that.

Wednesday morning, Pueblo County commissioners approved a grant for $25,000 from marijuana tax money to go towards the Pueblo Area Law Enforcement Chaplain's Corp.

The program is all about reuniting homeless people with their families in other cities through the transit system. The money will help provide bus and motel vouchers.

Parkhill Baptist Church Pastor Douglas Cox helps run the program.

"The primary purpose is to be able to send homeless people back to their home -- back to the strongest support group that we find in our society, which is typically family," he said.

Before, the program could only send homeless people about 100 miles away, where they would usually end up in a town with little resources. Now, it can essentially connect people nationwide.

Cox says overwhelming amounts of homeless people in a community can be taxing, so by helping homeless people get back on their feet, it will also help the overall community thrive.

"Allowing large numbers of indigent people, or people less fortunate, to continue to grow in our community heavily taxes our existing resources for those that were born and raised in our community. Thus, detracting what we can do for our own people."

While homelessness has always plagued Southern Colorado, homeless shelters in Pueblo say it's gotten worse.

Anne Stattleman, with Posada, says since January of 2014, they've seen an increase of about 47 percent. Stattleman doesn't think it's a coincidence they've seen a spike in homelessness ever since marijuana was made legal.

But Commissioner Sal Pace says they approved marijuana so tax benefits like this could happen.

"Folks in Pueblo are concerned about the number of homeless. There's a belief that some of them are here from out of state and need a way back home, and we want to make sure we provide a safe route back home," said Pace.

Stattleman says while any bit helps, this grant is just a drop in the bucket for what Pueblo really needs.

According to Posada, about 3,000 people are without a place to sleep each night. In District 60 alone, there are 1,500 students whose families don't have a consistent home.

Cox tells 11 News he's always seen homeless adults, but since the economy took a dive, he's seen more homeless families than ever.

Stattleman is concerned this could just be pushing homeless people to other strapped communities, like how Denver and Colorado Springs have pushed their homeless people to Pueblo.

"I'm kind of surprised it didn't go to an agency that already provides case management, because that's a big piece of any work that needs to be done with someone leaving town; make sure they have a place to go and that their needs will be met while they're there," she said.

11 News spokes to some homeless people trying to get to various places like Ohio or even just Colorado Springs. They say this will definitely help them.