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Homeless camps, tents increasing along Fountain Creek near downtown Colorado Springs: Why?

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- We've had a cold, wet late winter and early spring but local officials believe that's not a factor in the growing number of homeless camps and tents along Interstate 25 and Fountain Creek just south of downtown.

The camps have become more visible and noticeable recently to I-25 drivers and users of an adjacent trail. Up close, many of the camps are littered with mounds of trash, clothing, old furniture and bicycle parts.

People are wondering if the weather has filled all local homeless shelters to capacity, or if police are no longer enforcing camping ordinances -- particularly the one that bans camping creeks and other waterways.

The Springs Rescue Mission has a capacity of 450, but a spokesman said that only an average of 300 beds are used every night. So, plenty of beds are available.

Andy Phelps, the city's homelessness response coordinator, was at the site of a nearby camp cleanup Wednesday and said that police continue to enforce camping ordinances, and are issuing twice as many citations to violators as in the past.

"But we're also trying to help the homeless," he said. "We've even started a program that will give them jobs."

"We're also cleaning up more campsites even though we're seeing fewer campers, which is the opposite of what experts thought would happen during the pandemic," Phelps said.

So why do so many people continue to camp illegally when resources to help them are available?

Some homeless people said that they're skeptical of shelters for a variety of reasons -- ranging from too-strict rules, lack of proper cleanliness, being around too many people a belief that real resources to improve the lives of the homeless are unavailable or nonexistent.

"The last time I was in a shelter, I got COVID, pneumonia and a flesh-eating bacteria within two weeks," said Frankie Herrell, 53, who's been homeless for two years. "So no more shelters for me. I lost my job because I'm disabled, and then my wife left me. So I've been living in my car. What we really need to get off the streets is more affordable housing."

Officials said that they're seeing fewer homeless people since the COVID-19 pandemic began and that more of them are getting off the streets permanently. But there will likely always be people who prefer to camp out.

Alcohol and drug addition, mental illness, financial challenges and broken family relationships are factors in the lives of many people who prefer to be on their own.

Yet other homeless people said that they suffer from negative stereotypes and only want to be treated with respect, have jobs that pay enough to meet the area's high costs of living.

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Scott Harrison

Scott is a reporter for KRDO. Learn more about Scott here.



  1. Well…let’s see…some want help…most don’t. The recidivism rate for those who get help is so high they are back on the streets in no time. Even though services are offered by Springs Rescue…Catholic Charities…etc. There is no followup so to speak. Most are left on their own to navigate the system and we know how hard that can be even not being homeless. And bottom line…our fair City Council, Mayor others don’t want to do anything. Why should they? It’s not their problem. BINGO!

    1. There is follow up. But you can’t force someone to accept help or go into a rehab program. That is the problem. We have the programs and beds available. They don’t want the help. They just want to get high and drunk all day. I did volunteer work at SRM and it was an eye opening experience.

  2. come on you are asking why. well your king almighty is letting more n more in the country and the ones that can not find a job

    1. @stay But there are Millions of jobs available!! So many the republicans wanted to stop the unemployment bonus so people would go back to work…remember? so what about those jobs now? be careful republicans own words will come back every time.

    2. So tell me name one person you know that has lost his job to one of these foreigners. Or show me foreigner you know for fact is draining resources. If we as Americans were not so lazy there would not be jobs for them to take. Also you might want to take second look at homeless population. All most all are born right here in America. I agree all you people need to go back where your families came from get OFF MY PEOPLES LAND! None of your families are real Americans so go back home so my people can have back the land stolen in the first place

  3. “and have more affordable housing available”

    can’t argue with unaffordable housing here.

  4. Welcome to New Colorado Springs, just wait until summer arrives.

    Oh, and by the way; the city will be bulldozing the homeless sites. No trees; hello Colorado winds. And dust.

    The homeless will just move a hundred yards away; and the cycle starts all over again.

    Trees 150! Hooray COS. Trees! Plant ’em. Bulldoze ’em.

    1. “Trees 150! Hooray COS. Trees! Plant ’em. Bulldoze ’em.”
      This particular scenario has me LMAO! It’s TRUE!

      good job.

  5. If you can’t afford to live here, more somewhere else or go in jointly on a property with 3 other friends. That’s the way the economy works. There are places in Kansas and South Dakota that are dirt cheap.

  6. “…ranging from too-strict rules, lack of proper cleanliness, being around too many people a belief that real resources to improve the lives of the homeless are unavailable or nonexistent.”
    Many if the ones who won’t use a shelter are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. They refuse to follow the rule that no drugs and alcohol is allowed in the shelter. Most all of them have no ambition to get a job or pay for an apartment or living somewhere. They beg, get money, buy drugs, hang out in their tent getting high and then repeat the next day.
    I did some volunteer work at SRM and I was amazed at how many people would not accept or want help. People who would stop by and demand food and cloths then take off to go “camping”. Offered a place to stay and tons of help. Nope they don’t want it at all. There are ones who do utilize the system and get back on their feet.

  7. Some of the campers are “homeless” but most are “vagrants”. Our ever expanding homelessness industry treats everyone as “our precious neighbors” and victims. Sorry Rescue Mission, they are NOT “all our precious neighbors”. Maybe it is time to START ASKING QUESTIONS with all the handouts. Some Missions have revised their programming to cut back with the enabling, why not here?

  8. A recent survey taken with homeless people in COS and it simply asked, Why are you here (in COS) as opposed to other states. The #1 response was “for the marijuana”. I know the transients are offered places to sleep but they require a photo ID to determine if there are warrants for arrest etc. and no drugs & alcohol is permitted on the grounds. Most do not want to comply with those simple rules that make it safe for everyone. Bottom line is the homeless/transients do not want to be responsible citizens. I believe they would have more respect if they cleaned up after themselves, don’t treat Fountain Creek as a sewer, and stop lighting campfires that cause multiple grass fires.

    1. “don’t treat Fountain Creek as a sewer”

      About those crops being grown downstream …

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