February 11, 2022 | NEWS | By April Kwan | Photo by Daniel de Koning
The Colorado Springs City Council voted to approve an expansion of the Pedestrian Access Act in a 7-2 vote on Jan. 25, 2022. Councilwomen Yolanda Avila and Nancy Henjum opposed the expansion of the act, originally approved six years ago, mentioning that providing more resources for the homeless population would be more effective at keeping people off the streets.
“I know that it would work better to seek prevention methods to keep people off the streets,” said Avila on 11 News.
“This is not to punish people,” City Council President Tom Strand told Fox 21 News in support of the ordinance. “It is to educate people and to provide services and to ensure that people are safe both to those people on the ground in one way or another, and those people who are trying to walk and navigate.”
This vote on expanding the act comes at the Colorado Springs Police Department’s (CSPD) request. They cited safety issues to prevent any obstruction of people who have the right of way. Additionally, they noted how much Colorado Springs has grown since 2016.
Colorado Springs Police Commander John Koch mentioned that those who are homeless can end up “being preyed on by other individuals or being hit by vehicles – or surrounding workers and residents.”
According to the Colorado Springs Gazette, the Pedestrian Access Act currently prohibits any “sitting, kneeling, reclining on or lying down on public sidewalks, trails, and other rights of way in Old Colorado City and downtown.”
Colorado Springs Police requested to expand the physical boundaries of the Pedestrian Access Act up to Cache La Poudre Street, which would include Colorado College’s Ed Robson Arena. Its southern expansion goes down to Interstate 25 to include South Nevada Avenue.
The Act has long been critiqued by a number of people in the community for being a part of anti-homeless legislation, which has been condemned for criminalizing homelessness. Such legislation has been known to contribute to the stigmatization of homelessness, and it lacks resources or possible solutions to help people experiencing homelessness find safe environments and obtain resources.
The last point-in-time count in 2019 counted 1,562 homeless people living in Colorado Springs. 28.4% of them were found without any shelter and 71.6% were found in temporary housing. This includes emergency shelters and transitional housing assignments, according to coloradosprings.gov.
Additionally, some question if ticketing and relocating the homeless population will be effective or meaningful in any manner.
The CSPD said that police officers will give out warnings and recommend resources like the Springs Rescue Mission, a local organization working to provide shelter to those in need, before giving out tickets.