News Briefs: Grand Junction Receives Stimulus Money to Help Homeless Students

Published September 2009 Vol. 13 Issue 8

Grand Junction’s school district, District 51, will receive an $80,000 grant to help homeless students. The district’s REACH program (Resources, Education and Advocacy for Children who are Homeless) will use the money to send certified teachers to six district schools to tutor homeless students.

The district, which served 478 homeless students last year, selected schools with the highest concentrations of homeless students. Recently, District 51 has seen a major increase in homeless students. There were twice as many students classified as homeless in the district for the 2008/2009 school year than there were for the previous year. Because the district will actually be receiving more money than it requested, Cathy Haller, District 51 prevention services coordinator, is waiting for approval from the state to send certified teachers to two more high schools.

—Sarah Harvey

News Briefs: City Council Approves Additional Homeless Funds

Published September 2009 Vol. 13 Issue 8

Two Denver City Council members expressed concern over city contractors who begin work before the contracts in question are properly executed and signed by the city. Councilman Charlie Brown raised the issue last month during a vote to approve a $525,000 contract for homeless services by the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless. Despite the vote being in August, the contract had a start date of April 1st, and the CCH, after receiving the go-ahead from the Denver Department of Human Services, had already begun to spend the money.

According to the city’s website, this is a common practice. Seventy five percent of expenditure contracts this year have had a start date before the contract is scheduled to reach the office of the mayor and the auditor. Councilman Charlie Brown asked the city council to vote down the CCH contract in order to set an example for other contractors.

Ultimately, the majority of the Council members decided a contract concerning money to help Colorado’s homeless was not the best contract to make an example of by voting down. “This is not the issue I want to hold up as an example,” said Councilwoman Marcia Johnson. The contract was approved 10-2, with Councilwoman Jeanne Faatz siding with Brown and Councilman Paul Lopez absent. BJ Iacino of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless says the organization is grateful the city did not take steps to compromise their ability to deliver services.


-- Sarah Harvey

News Briefs: Bar Codes and Piggy Banks in Colorado Springs

Published September 2009 Vol. 13 Issue 8

Two proposed programs aimed at improving homeless services in Colorado Springs may be underway again after experiencing delays over the past year. One program is a rapid-entry card system. Homeless clients of various Colorado Springs agencies will be provided with a card that has the cardholder’s photo and a bar code. The card will expedite services for people who need them by replacing the old process of filling out a new form for each new agency. The card will also help formulate long-term plans to get people into housing. The program ran into a setback this January when the contracted vendor went out of business. The program is now back on track, and a test run of the card system is expected to take place soon.

The second program is a network of repurposed parking meters that will be placed in Colorado Springs businesses to collect change for local agencies offering services for the homeless. Colorado Springs Councilman Jerry Heimlicher initially proposed the plan two years ago as part of an effort to decrease panhandling in the area. The program experienced difficulties early on in finding the machines—it took a year and a half to acquire all 135 used meters. Another setback occurred when organizers realized they did not have enough money to pay the artists they originally had commissioned to customize each meter. Local businesses will now be donating the money to buy materials that volunteers will use to decorate the meters. Heimlicher is hoping to launch the meters by October.


-- Sarah Harvey

News Briefs: Federal government extends $30 million to staunch Section 8 bleeding

Published September 2009 Vol. 13 Issue 8

by Joanne Zuhl
additional reporting by Tim Covi

After housing authorities across the country reported massive shortfalls in funding, the federal government announced in August that it would provide an additional $30 million to people on Section 8 housing assistance.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, funds the Section 8 program through local housing authorities, like the Denver Housing Authority. People eligible for Section 8 housing enter into a lottery for vouchers. If selected, they then find an apartment with a participating landlord.

According to news reports and testimony before Congress, authorities across the country were saying they could no longer afford to provide housing assistance to tenants as the economic downturn overburdened their resources.

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News Briefs: Major overnight homeless shelter closes

Published September 2009 Vol. 13 Issue 8

Crossroads Men's Shelter of the Denver Salvation Army, photos by Adrian DiUbaldo

The Denver Salvation Army closed its Crossroads Men’s Shelter last month. The Salvation Army will redirect resources from the emergency shelter to support services such as counseling and transitional housing programs. The Salvation Army is hoping to better align itself with Denver’s 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness.The closure is also due in part to the economic downturn. “In our ongoing mission to do the most good for people in need we are making this change,” says Capt. Ron McKinney, Salvation Army city coordinator. “Recognizing the limitations of funds that are available requires our agency to be as effective as possible in the use of monies.” Last December, The Salvation Army saw their donations drop by 30 percent.

The Crossroads Men’s Shelter first opened in 1983. It had 136 beds, 99 regular mats and up to 330 emergency mats. The shelter housed an average of 230 men per night during warm weather and 300 men per night during winter weather. Crossroads also served over 900 meals per day.

The city has not been able to respond with a plan yet to supplement the shelter needs before this winter. 

—Sarah Harvey

Feature: Catching Out

Published September 2009 Vol. 13 Issue 8

by Karolyn Tregembo
photography by Bill Ross

The city seems filled with vagrant kids, lounging on street corners, in parks, under bridges. I pass them on the bike trails and perched in front of the coffee house. Sometimes they ask for a dime or a bite to eat and sometimes I oblige. Some are just passing through, looking for a place to crash for the night. Others are faces I recognize and some I know.

Pony Boy sits on the sidewalk, playing his guitar, as much for his own enjoyment as for the passersby. At 17 years old, he is tall and baby faced, wearing a flannel and a mischievous grin. He is playing for enough change to get some coffee and maybe a sandwich. We have talked before, about how he never quite felt as though he fit in at home or school. As early as age 11 he found solace at punk shows and hanging out with like minds in coffee houses and the warehouse district. He says he has a place to stay right now, but finding a job is hard when you are young and don’t conform to social norms.

He likes to get out of the city sometimes and with no money in his pockets this is accomplished by jumping into an open boxcar. I am curious about the boxcar and he explains that he doesn’t really want to talk about hopping trains; he isn’t an expert and doesn’t want to give that impression. “There is a difference between living on the rails and catching a ride once in a while,” he says.

His friend, Banjo Fred, agrees, “I am still young and not yet fully experienced in the ways of the road, I have no right to pretend otherwise.” At 19, Fred is already a wanderer. He is good looking, quick-witted, and wise beyond his years. He tells me that he finds comfort and adventure in his travels, in going new places. I ask about a place to live, a job, possibly going to school. “There are things that get in the way of living frivolously, like sense and reason, both of which I cannot stand,” he says.

Huck Finn and Peter Pan with a modern twist. These two even hop trains. What could be more adventurous than jumping on a 2,000-ton piece of moving steel, heart pounding as it lurches and builds speed until it is carrying you at 60 miles per hour through vast, still undeveloped land. There is an obvious lack of sense and reason in stealing through dark train yards and thick brush beneath bridges to find the perfect spot to “catch out” (a term widely used to describe the act of catching a ride on a freight train). The excitement is in the unknown, in the anticipation of what lies ahead and often, in the very trains themselves.

A youthful desire for adventure and hopping trains isn’t anything new. At the height of the Depression 250,000 teenagers were wandering across America, a large number riding the rails in the hopes of finding money, food and shelter. Train hopping is reminiscent of a time when the economic upheaval of the Great Depression and the dust bowls of the Midwest left hundreds of thousands of people out of work and homeless. A time when the railways were filled with men, women and children riding box cars across the country.

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Personal Profile: Grand Transit

Published September 2009 Vol. 13 Issue 8

Route 9

by Quinten Collier
Illustrations by Ross Evertson

Behind the rehab clinic and directly across the street from the work release compound, right on the dividing line between “Historic” Downtown Grand Junction with its fortress-like courthouses, octogenarian cottages and shop windows filled with irrelevancies, there lies the mute, oppressive warehouse atmosphere of the barren industrial district. Here, with the police station not a block away, amidst the street-hardened ex-cons and addicts, many with the famished eyes of those who have seen so much corrosion of the mind, body and soul they have ceased to notice anything else, with bestial tattoos like old war maps encircling their arms; here, in the desert heat that erodes the sidewalks, where 7th Street and South Avenue intersect, here is where a person looking to take the GVT (Grand Valley Transit) will find the main transfer point for busses.

I usually take the Route 9 to Clifton, a section of Mesa County composed of undernourished, deteriorating suburban neighborhoods, clustered trailer parks and stucco shopping plazas eaten by the sun. But I don’t often come to the transfer point. I did today just to see what it was like.

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Art Feature: A six hour tour

Published September 2009 Vol. 13 Issue 8

by Ross Evertson

All but one stop. After going all the way from ‘Aspen Grove’ in Littleton, past the Rossonian in 5-Points, and all the way down to wherever-the-heck it is at the end of the F Line—I couldn’t bear to take the last leg over to 9-Mile. While the C/D Lines  briskly take you through the industrial corridor of Santa Fe Blvd, the F Line is slow, starting in a concrete valley west of I-25 and gradually turning into a tour of office park sprawl with bits of the prarie that said sprawl is consuming.

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