July News Briefs

Music In Bathrooms Keeps Homeless Out
By Sarah Ford

In Grand Junction, city officials are implementing a unique new tactic to keep the homeless from staying in public bathrooms: blasting children’s tunes inside the restrooms. 

Rob Schoeber, Director of Grand Junction Parks and Recreation, told local NBC affiliate KKCO 11 that the city is seeking to keep the homeless and transitory from spending too long in public restrooms as a way to escape inclement weather or unfavorable conditions. 

Homeless advocates, however, have heavily criticized the move as an attack specifically targeting the homeless and part of a larger effort toward disenfranchisement of the homeless by city governments and parks departments. 

When people enter the bathroom, the high-volume repetition of tunes known for grating on the nerves (“Skip to my Lou” and “It’s a Small World After All,” for instance) encourage users to move in and out of the restroom quickly, discouraging those who may be looking to use the space as an escape from the outside elements. 

According to Schoeber, the design is part of a larger law enforcement strategy known as Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED), where public spaces are designed with features specifically intended to discourage or prevent particular crime or unwanted activity. ■

  

Tent Cities Growing In Colorado Springs
By Sarah Ford 

Citizens in Colorado Springs are upset as the number of tent encampments continue to grow within the city. 

According to Fox 21 in Colorado Springs, resident Chris Sgaraglino is seeking to bring attention to the issue in the hope that the city will come forward with increased, sustainable efforts to provide the transient and homeless a place to stay instead of rapidly expanding tent cities. 

“The problem is not the homeless. The problem is what do we do with the homeless? What is the city going to do with it? It’s not a homeless problem. It’s a city government problem. It’s their job to put together a plan to take care of their people, and they’re not doing that, clearly,” Sgaraglino told Fox 21. 

However, tent camping tends to noticeably increase in the summer months, making it difficult for service providers to track new communities and maintain outreach. 

The number of tent communities is difficult to track, but the most recent estimates by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty found more than 100 communities in 41 states from 2008–2013. There is no official count in Colorado Springs; however, the opening of the Crags campground in Pikes Peak was delayed in June due to what the U.S. Forest Service identified as “a rise in homeless camps.” They reported that there are also increasing numbers of camps popping up in national forest land, which cost an average of $1,000 to clean up. ■

  

Preliminary Results of Denver’s Homeless Count Released
By Sarah Harvey 

Last month, Metro Denver Homeless Initiative (MDHI) released the preliminary results of its annual Point-In-Time survey. The survey, which was conducted January 25, 2016, counted 5,467 people experiencing homelessness in the seven-county Denver metro area.

Compared to the 2015 survey, this year’s PIT survey counted 663 fewer people in the Denver metro area. Although that technically translates to an 11 percent decrease, MDHI warns readers of the report that the count is almost certainly an undercount, and therefore they should use extreme caution when interpreting the survey results.

The 2016 survey also shows:

14.4 percent (786 people) who were unsheltered (living on the street, under a bridge, in an abandoned or public building, in a car, camping, etc.)

34.2 percent staying in emergency shelters (including hotel/motel vouchers paid for by an organization)

51.4 percent staying in transitional housing

18.7 percent of respondents were considered newly homeless, meaning they had been homeless for less than one year and this was their first time experiencing homelessness

76.2 percent (2,232 respondents) reported that they or someone in their household had received income in the past month

The PIT survey is conducted every year on a night in late January. On that night, volunteers and service providers attempt to count the number of people experiencing homelessness in the Denver metro area by surveying them. People who are not surveyed, or who refuse to complete the voluntary survey, are not counted. ■

  

Free tampons for NYC’s Homeless Women
By Sarah Harvey 

New York City lawmakers voted 49-0 last month to approve a proposal that would require free access to tampons and sanitary pads in public schools, homeless shelters, and jails. 

Though homeless shelters and jails in the city already provide free pads and tampons upon request, New York City Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks praised the proposal, which expands on existing policies and strengthens them with the power of the law. 

When the proposal becomes law, it will provide an estimated 2 million tampons and 3.5 million pads annually for 23,000 women in homeless shelters, according to the Associated Press. The proposed legislation is estimated to cost about $2.5 million annually, a fraction of New York City’s $82 billion budget.

The measure is expected to be approved by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Once the bill has the mayor’s signature, New York City will be the first city in the country to require free access to menstruation products. ■