Glenwood Springs deserves more than just clean up as a solution to homelessness
Cleaning up isn’t cheap — that much is clear following estimates it would take $200,000 to clean up all of the roughly 80 homeless encampments in Glenwood Springs.
That doesn’t include similar encampments just outside of city limits.
The cost might strike some as too high, unless they know the amount of refuse accumulated at various spots in and around Glenwood Springs. A smaller-scale volunteer cleanup last fall along Scout Trail organized by the city of Glenwood Springs, Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers and ECOS Environmental and Disaster Restoration collected nearly enough refuse to fill a 10 cubic-yard contractor’s dumpster.
Sites above Walmart and elsewhere are even more littered with refuse from encampments over the years.
We applaud the city for seeking partnerships with residents, Garfield County and affected private property owners to help clean up these sites. Yet cleaning up won’t do anything to address the root cause of the illegal dumping in the first place.
“Every time we clean up, they move, then a couple months later they move back in. It’s a moving target that constantly needs to be addressed,” Parks and Recreation Director Brian Smith told the Parks and Recreation Commission earlier this month.
There are people within our community in need of safe, reliable housing — so, what will we do as a community long-term to help with this? The good news is Glenwood Springs already has a committee focused on homelessness. We hope they’ll begin looking at possible solutions and policies in earnest. While the pandemic isn’t over, we need to still make sure we’re focused on addressing other challenges as well and bettering our community.
One solution would be a site similar to the Brush Creek Lot Safe Outdoor Space between Aspen and Snowmass.
Founded roughly one year ago, the space provides shelter for 17 homeless people as well as access to electricity, bathrooms and a large tent for cooking and meetings.
The space has also helped some longtime homeless people find work and stable housing, the Aspen Times reported this week.
“This actually has given people a lot of opportunity,” resident and peer support specialist Austin Kuck said.
Another possibility is further aiding the work of organizations such as Mind Spring Health’s mobile crisis intervention teams, which can help people in the midst of a mental health or addiction crisis get the help and resources they need.
None of this is to imply that solving homelessness locally will be easy — housing scarcity and affordability, employment, access to mental health care, addiction services and so much more are all challenges without an obvious solution. Homelessness happens to people from all walks of life, and each person’s needs are different.
Yet the bottom line is we need to do this work. Doing so is guaranteed to make our community even better and stronger. We would urge our city councilors and homelessness committee members to put their heads together and bring forward some tangible solutions for our community. Until we get that far, we won’t be able to do anything more than spend $200,000 to clean up every couple of years.
The Post Independent editorial board members are Publisher Bryce Jacobson, Editor Peter Baumann, Managing Editor/Senior Reporter John Stroud, and community representatives Amy Connerton and Karl Oelke.
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UPDATE: Both westbound lanes and one eastbound lane of Interstate 70, according to a 12:20 a.m. update from Garfield County.