“The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.” Anatole France, Le Lys Rouge, 1894
Go on the library’s website (ppld.org), search for the earliest photograph of Colorado Springs, and what do you see? It’s a grainy photograph of downtown Colorado Springs during 1871, when there was no Colorado Springs. There are a few rough wooden shacks, and a handful shabbily dressed, bearded men skulking about.
Now, 140 years later, go to that location which is now the intersection of Pikes Peak and Cascade. Walk several hundred yards to the southwest to the banks of Fountain Creek, and what do you see?
You see a few bearded, shabbily dressed men standing around an encampment consisting of a few tents and some rough wooden shacks.
140 years ago: courageous pioneers extend the frontier!!
Today: shiftless freeloaders pollute the creek, thumb their noses at authority and offend us with their all-too-visible poverty!
One wonders whether the official dismay at the “homeless situation” isn’t rooted in the refusal of the creekside campers to be humble, law-abiding and invisible.
Think about it. If you were down-and-out, broke, homeless and scorned by polite society, would you like to sleep in a coldly regulated shelter, get tossed out every morning at 7 a.m. and wander the streets for the rest of the day? Or would you rather pitch a tent beside the creek, sleep when you please, drink cheap vodka, cadge a few bucks from soft-hearted motorists and eat for free at Marian House?
What official Colorado Springs most dislikes about the tent cities (actually, they’re more like tent villages) is that they’re so outlandishly visible, an ever-present reminder that some of us are afflicted by terrible poverty. Shouldn’t they just go somewhere else?
Here are some suggestions.
- Let’s turn the tent cities into tourist attractions, like Rock Ledge Ranch. These folks aren’t homeless – they’re re-enacting our early history!
- Let’s cash in on our investment in the USOC and move ‘em all into the now-vacant bottom floors of the USOC building at 27 South Tejon!
-And finally, let’s take up Broadmoor CEO Steve Bartolin on his offer to help the city deal with its multiple financial crises and transport the camps to the Broadmoor Golf Course. Steve would be delighted – so much so that we should just make it a surprise, and let him wake up one morning to a field of colorful tents where once there was a drab green fairway.
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