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Pioneers, bums and the Broadmoor golf course

Tue, Jan 19, 2010

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“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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4 Comments For This Post

  1. Green Flash Says:

    I’ve just re-read Soylent Green. There’s a recipe for contribution to our grand society. Or how ’bout we retrofit some of the empty stores on Academy Blvd for multiple homeless living? Putting homeless people into the USOC building won’t solve our downtown blight problem, but moving them to Academy Blvd might breathe a little life into that strip of desolation.

  2. atomic elroy Says:

    LOL… who do you think you are Jonathan Swift?

  3. Mimi H Cherle Says:

    How about the City Auditorium? Lots of space. It also has some ‘oversight’ by the City Council (pun intended). It also meets the purpose of the Form-Based Zone/Code (FBZ) to provide a “pedestrian-friendly downtown” (lots more ‘friendly’ people downtown) and “viability of the pubic realm” (the public will be able to enjoy the experience), and to provide for a “Civic” purpose (the FBZ focus is the building not the use of the building). It also has a theatre where movies/TV could be shown, and school kids could perform plays (for the reported 25 sex offenders in the camps). I could go on about the advantages…

  4. curt neeley Says:

    Pioneer figure Irving Howbert wrote in his autobiography MEMORIES OF A LIFETIME IN THE PIKES PEAK REGION (available at history.oldcolo.com) that some residents of Old Colorado City would take their bedding to the creekbank for protection against the fierce windstorms. Construction standards of those days were frail and sleeping indoors was risky.

    In subsequent years “Squatters” and vags (vagrants) were omnipresent….. many of them chronic drunks looking for a temporary mooch or place to flop. One Oldtimer described a place called “Ed’s Beds” near Fountain Blvd. and Shooks Run. Periodic Police Rousting was considered by many of them as part of the routine and of substantial entertainment value.

    But the larger problem of political vagrancy and moral vacuum remains at City Hall, as always. Blessed are the poor in back bone, needful of daily schmoozing by each other as downtown elites. From that perspective, The El Paso Club becomes Marian House-East.
    For example, how are you enjoying our 40% gas price increase by CSU? I’m told they please that prominent citizen Mr. Industry Standards. Just precious, don’t you think?