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Local Homeless Population Includes More Elderly, Women, and Teens

Jon Pinder
Creative Commons

The elderly are the fastest-growing segment of the homeless population, and that trend is being reflected locally. The executive director of the Bridge Emergency Shelter, Laurie Knutson, told the Cortez City Council on Tuesday that of 323 clients served over the past winter, 84 were 55 or older, and one was 81. Knutson said in contrast to the stereotype of the homeless as “drunks from the park”, the shelter saw a wide range of guests, including teens, women, and couples. Only 22 percent of the beds were used by the intoxicated. She said the Bridge has become a de facto home for low-income people squeezed by rents, which are soaring nationwide. Knutson said the VA offers a housing voucher for veterans but the maximum amount is $456 monthly and few landlords will accept that.

A telephone survey is beginning in Montezuma County to assess residents’ interest in broadband Internet service as well as the idea of a sales tax to support it. County IT director Jim McClain told the commissioners Monday that the survey, which will continue for two weeks, will include 13 questions about Internet speed and use, and more. Commission chair Larry Don Suckla said he recently learned that most sales taxes disproportionately affect the poor, but McClain said county-wide broadband can’t be developed without a tax and even then it would not pay all the costs.

Gail Binkly is a career journalist who has worked for the Colorado Springs Gazette and Cortez Journal. She is currently a freelance writer as well as the editor of the Four Corners Free Press, based in Cortez.
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