No. 10 " Homeless issue hits home in a tourist area |

No. 10 " Homeless issue hits home in a tourist area

Pete Fowler
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” Homeless people living in and around Glenwood Springs also came to the forefront in 2008.

But don’t call them homeless, they say, because they have tents instead of traditional homes with mortgages.

A feature story in April about homeless people generated a large response from readers. The story said 75 percent of homeless people in Glenwood Springs work, a much greater proportion than the 15 percent in other parts of Colorado.

There are as many as 100 to 150 homeless people in Glenwood Springs in the summers and about 300 total coming and going throughout the year, according to one charity. Many of them camp on hillsides surrounding the city.

A violent bat beating at a transient camp site on the hillside behind Wal-Mart on May 31 grabbed headlines. William Masoner hit two men with a baseball bat enough to nearly kill them and send them both to the Denver Health Medical Center. Their mothers said they would probably have permanent injuries. A third man struck with the bat was released from Valley View Hospital.

Police arrested Masoner on suspicion of attempted murder after a woman told them he “freaked out” and attacked the three men from behind with the bat. But he was released a month later after prosecutors decided not to file charges, apparently siding with arguments of self-defense from Masoner and two friends in his tent. They said the men attacked Masoner with knives and tried to burn down his tent.

The Glenwood Springs Tourism Board sent a letter to the City Council in June saying it’s concerned about the impact of homeless people on tourism and offering to help find a solution. It said business owners have received complaints from visitors about everything from begging and panhandling to feeling unsafe. Police Chief Terry Wilson said police saw a greater influx of homeless people in Glenwood Springs in the summer of 2008 compared to previous summers.

Some wondered if charities should be more strict in the way they help homeless people to avoid enabling those who choose to live homeless. But the Feed My Sheep charity, probably of greatest help to the homeless, said it wouldn’t consider trying to police who can receive services because even people who may have gotten in trouble with the law need help to get going in the right direction. The organization says it works hard to teach its clients Glenwood Springs is a tourism community and get them to stay out of the downtown core and not panhandle or drink in the city.

Feed My Sheep extended its winter overnight program that provides shelter for homeless people during the winter through mid-March next year. The change came in response to Paul Friel’s death outside a day or two after the program ended the previous winter. That season it ended in late February. About three people are reportedly planning on going the entire winter in tents on hillsides near Glenwood Springs.

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