Homeless Outreach Program addresses mental health, provides hope for those experiencing homelessness
Homelessness. The issue is complex, emotional, and it touches every city across the country.
Meeting a critical need
Recognizing that our city’s 911 system, fire department, and police force were overwhelmed responding to mental health calls, a Community Response Team was established in December 2014 to address this need. Working under the umbrella of the Colorado Springs Fire Department, this team responds specifically to 911 calls involving suicide threats and mental health concerns that require specialized care.
In August 2019, the Homeless Outreach Program (HOP) launched under the Community & Public Health Division of the Colorado Springs Fire Department. The program was supported with a $50,000 grant from the Downtown Development Authority and funding from Colorado Springs Health Foundation.
Health professionals identify and serve most vulnerable
The HOP teams consist of a mental health worker and CSFD paramedic. Team members are trained behavioral health providers with combined experience in mental and medical health assessment, treatment, education and care, and they focus exclusively on Downtown. Easily identified by their bright red shirts, the HOP team walks between the City’s main human service providers, the Marion House on the north side and Springs Rescue Mission on the south end of Downtown Colorado Springs. They work to identify and engage with individuals that frequently utilize services, establish a relationship with them, build trust and offer assistance and opportunities to connect to community agencies.
“Our goal is to improve the quality of life for those individuals experiencing homelessness and struggling with social detriments or mental and/or physical health. In doing so, we believe the effect will be a Downtown area that continues to be viewed as a safe gathering place for community events, a thriving environment for businesses of all types, and a symbol of vitality for our city as a whole,” said Aja King, Licensed Professional Counselor, Director of Homeless Outreach Program.
Relationship to resiliency
With the understanding that the process will be a marathon, not a sprint, HOP staff take time to build trust and foster cooperation. The team members have worked in career counseling and employment assistance, providing a different approach that has already led to positive outcomes. Tom (not his real name), a homeless veteran, met with the HOP team members in January 2020. They encouraged Tom to connect with VA programs and local service agencies but at the time, Tom was unwilling. With the outbreak of Covid-19 and subsequent Stay At Home order, HOP staff lost track of Tom; he could no longer be found in his regular spots. A few weeks ago, Tom recognized the bright red shirts, approached the team and asked for help. He was ready. HOP staff connected him with Rocky Mountain Human Services to reopen Tom’s case and this veteran is currently in the process of obtaining secure housing. Another client was connected to resources and provided transportation to another city, where he could work on his sobriety away from family and friends who had only enabled his addiction.
contact the homeless outreach program
If you are concerned for a homeless individual in the Downtown area who is exhibiting concerning behaviors that are not illegal or who appears to be in mild medical distress please call the HOP team at 719.368.0852.
Hours of Operation: Monday-Friday, 8am -3 pm.
If the team is unable to answer your call immediately they will follow-up if you leave a message with contact information. If you feel that the concern is an emergency needing immediate response, please call 911.