Posted: Dec 1, 2011 9:04 PM by John Romero
Updated: Dec 2, 2011 3:22 AM
Day after day Officers Brett Iverson and M.J. Thompson walk the trails around Colorado Springs. They're part of CSPD's Homeless Outreach Team. On a day like this they're trying to get the city's homeless off the cold streets and in to a shelter. "The last thing we want to find anyone frozen to death." explains Officer Iverson, "So we try to make sure that they know the warming shelter is open."
Last year, the city adopted a no camping ordinance, after some 700 homeless were estimated to be living in tent cities. That number has since dropped but by no means are the homeless gone. Gene Morris runs the Salvation Army's shelter near downtown. On cold nights like this one they can quickly reach overflow capacity. "It's been pretty busy. Our numbers are up." he explains, "We're running around 187 a night, plus 27 to 30 cold weather a night. We're up to 210+."
Police tell us the homeless campers aren't as obvious as they used to be. "The homeless problem isn't what people call the eyesore." explains Officer Iverson, "You can't see them, but they're still out there. It's cowboy camping." Cowboy camping is a way that the homeless hide their campgrounds or move around from spot to spot. "They just collapse their stuff like their sleeping bags and clothes. They try to keep it as low profile as they can." explains Officer Thompson. We walked the trails with Thompson and Iverson and they showed us an example of cowboy camping. "Then they surround it with trees in a little ravine like this so it's hard to see. This is what we're trying to explain to people. We still have lots of people doing this." says Thompson.
Iverson adds it's important to remember that on days like this, there's still so many in need. "The homeless issue is still out there." he says, "You just don't see them as much as you used to."