Colorado Springs Homeless Outreach Program could run out of money in 2023

Supporters of a Colorado Springs Fire Department team helping to meet the needs of the local homeless population are hoping the city will find a more stable source of funding for the program before the grant that currently funds it expires next year.

The fire department’s Homeless Outreach Program began in 2019. The team of four consists of paramedics and psychiatrists who spend their days in the homeless-frequented downtown areas of the city. HOP members provide emergency relief and connect individuals with local resources.

“When I’m overwhelmed, I call the HOP team,” said Kristy Milligan, CEO of interfaith human resources services organization Westside Cares in Colorado Springs.

“I will tell you that the HOP team works with the people who are the most visible and have the most persistent problems,” she said.

Milligan was one of several residents who spoke out in favor of the HOP team at a recent public hearing on the city’s proposed 2023 budget. The program would need to raise more than $400,000 annually to continue its work beyond next June when its grants expire.

Jerry White, chair of the local nonprofit Bike Colorado Springs advocacy committee, said the HOP team has taken effective action along the downtown trail corridor, helping to keep it safe and clean for all users. It’s a trail system that the city spent approximately $400 million to create and maintain.

“Colorado Springs often receives complaints about the difficulty in using our trails due to congestion and other safety concerns,” White said. “We strongly recommend increasing funding for services that help address the issue.”

City Councilman Dave Donelson told attendees at the hearing that city fire chief Randy Royal did not list the HOP team as a funding priority in his proposed budget for the department.

“He didn’t list it there as something that needs to be funded from the general fund. They think they can [continue to] Get the money through grants,” Donelson said.

Some City Council members have also suggested that any excess police department funds could be shifted to the Fire Department to support the HOP team.

The Colorado Springs Police Department also has a separate homeless outreach team.

The City Council will make a final decision on the 2023 budget in December.

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