Cleanup along Fountain Creek with a focus on homeless encampments, trash buildup

PUEBLO – Multiple organizations are beginning a week-long effort Monday to clean up areas near Fountain Creek in Pueblo, where piles of trash and human waste are causing public health concerns.

The Pueblo Police Department will lead the cleanup and said most of the trash comes from homeless encampments and people living near the river basin.

Capt. Dustin Taylor, a spokesman for the police department, said they regularly receive calls from people concerned about the large amount of trash in the area.

He said the problems are being addressed this week by visiting people living in the camps and aiming to reduce the risk of fire in the area.

“I think the biggest thing is we want to make sure they’re safe, especially in the colder times of the year,” Taylor said. “Those who live along the river have to stay warm, and in some cases when that happens, propane tanks and things like that explode. We’ve seen cases where someone living a homeless lifestyle loses everything they have, and we want to help prevent that.”


Patrick Godfrey

During a similar cleanup in 2018, the Pueblo Police Department and other organizations met with people living near Fountain Creek to address public health concerns from the accumulation of trash and human waste.

Taylor said the department is also clearing brush near the creek, which can easily become a fire hazard. Along with cleaning up the area, police and other organizations are spending time talking to people about available resources, including mental health, substance abuse and housing resources.

Pueblo Triple Aim, a nonprofit that provides housing services, is among those meeting with people Monday to provide resources. Executive Director Alexis Ellis said there is no overnight solution for people who need housing, and there is a long waiting list for housing options in Pueblo.

“There are 169 people that are on that list right now. What they could do is line up for things that could be vouchers and maybe permanent supportive housing. There are a couple of different options that the community has,” Ellis said.

She said she hasn’t seen the housing waiting list clear in the four years she’s been at Triple Aim. Pueblo Rescue Mission is a low-barrier shelter in an area with limited openings for those experiencing homelessness. But Ellis said the goal is to provide transitional housing and, eventually, permanent housing options for people in need.

“It takes time for people to settle in. It goes towards vulnerability and programs where people will be more successful,” she said.

The goal of these cleanups is to avoid situations like the homeless camp fire that broke out a week ago in the Stratmoor Hills area near South Academy and I-25.

KOAA reported on a fire last week that destroyed several tents, cars and RVs. Firefighters said about 50 propane tanks exploded due to the heat from the flames. They said the fire would likely have spread to nearby neighborhoods if the fire danger had been high that day.

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