Two months after passing a law to get dozens of homeless people out of highly visible ramshackle camps, the City Council is considering spending $50,000 to put them up in a motel.
Homeward Pikes Peak is requesting $50,000 from the city and hoping to get $50,000 more from the county to continue to pay for motel rooms for the homeless, said Bob Holmes, executive director of the local coordinating agency for homeless services.
“It would be used to fund keeping these individuals at the Express Inn,” he said.
“This is not the Antlers,” Holmes added, referring to the downtown Hilton. “They are three to a room, same sex, and they’re required to go out and look for work. They have to show anywhere from one to five employment contacts a day based on their ability.”
Even if the city and the county contribute $50,000 each, Holmes said he expects to need at least an additional $50,000 to rent motel rooms until “sometime after Labor Day.”
But after that, he said, the program has to end.
“This was for emergency, short-term help,” he said.
“We are really making a strong effort to let people know that this is not forever,” he added. “This is a few months more, and you’ve really got to get moving, get a job, get your benefits. Do whatever you need to do, but make a plan.”
Holmes said a $100,000 grant from the El Pomar Foundation that the agency has been using since mid-February to rent rooms at the Express Inn on Cimarron Street will dry up by the end of May, prompting him to ask Mayor Lionel Rivera for financial assistance.
Holmes said he asked Rivera for $100,000 to match El Pomar’s grant, but Rivera suggested the city provide $50,000 and the county pitch in $50,000 more.
“My request to the county is based more on the fact that we’ve cooperated with (two separate) no-camping ordinances to make them seamless across the city and county,” Holmes said.
“I think it would be, for lack of a better phrase, a preventative maintenance investment for the county to help us as well,” he said. “The homeless individuals who cannot attain self-sufficiency are a problem for all citizens, whether you live in the city, whether you live in the county.”
Rivera did not immediately return a call for comment today.
But city spokesman John Leavitt said the mayor sent the Public Communications Office a note this morning asking that an item be added to Monday’s informal agenda.
Leavitt said the item on the agenda is listed as “no-camping ordinance impact on homeless service providers and request for funding.”
Holmes said the transitional housing at the Express Inn has been effective. He said more than 70 homeless people have found jobs and more than 80 have returned to where they came from.
“I’m hoping to spend less (money) in the second three months because we’ve moved so many people either back home or to self-sufficiency through employment,” he said.