PUEBLO, Colo.- - Colorado Springs certainly isn’t the only city in Southern Colorado with a sizable population of homeless; Pueblo is in a similar boat.
Around 70 volunteers combed all of Pueblo for its very first Point and Time Count early Wednesday morning. Volunteers were out on the streets from 2 a.m. until 8 a.m., counting the homeless in tents, shelters, ER's, etc. This was the first homeless count of its kind in the city.
Ryan Yanke, the group's organizer, is no stranger to the displaced. However, he's still shaken by their living conditions.
"We found people sleeping in parking lots and in areas not meant for human habitation," recalled Yanke.
One of the largest homeless counts was right near Fountain Creek and the Pueblo Mall. The city had plows clear the area of its tent cities just hours after the count.
"We are lacking housing," said Yanke. "We are lacking affordable housing and permanent support of housing."
To solve this and other homeless issues in Pueblo, the city recently formed the Pueblo Homeless Commission.
A group of 25 individuals, including City Officials, law enforcement, and community advocates. City Council Member Mark Aliff and Pueblo County Commissioner Chris Wiseman are chairmen.
Pueblo City Council announced the new commission at Monday's council meeting. They've already held their first meeting. Their top priority, a permanent shelter.
"If we have more people involved in the shelter search, the better the solution is going to be," said Councilman Mark Aliff.
The commission doesn't plan on stopping after finding a permanent shelter.
"This group is going to be indefinite," said Aliff. "We are going to look into all areas of homelessness and the problems with transitional housing, permanent housing, affordable housing. What is also very important is how to prevent homelessness entirely."
Yanke, a commission member himself, says this count and future counts will help the commission get grants at the state and federal level and measure how well they're doing.
"Are the programs that are in place actually working?" said Yanke. "We will do future counts to see if the new things we put into place are making an impact?"
Final counts or numbers likely won't be released until some time in February. Findings have been sent to the state up in Denver.
When they do eventually get released, it will be a conservative estimate as to how many displaced are located in Pueblo.
Yanke says it's difficult to count every homeless person, especially ones living inside abandoned homes.