Pubdate: Wed, 18 May 2016
Source: Pueblo Chieftain (CO)
Copyright: 2016 The Pueblo Chieftain
Author: Anthony A. Mestas, The Pueblo Chieftain


The fines levied against marijuana businesses through the county's
enforcement division are helping homeless people who have become
stranded in Pueblo.

In an effort to help homeless get back to their places of origin, the
Pueblo County commissioners voted Wednesday to give the Pueblo Area
Law Enforcement Chaplains Corp. a $25,000 grant that would be used to
help benefit homeless individuals without support in Pueblo County.

Commissioner Sal Pace said the money for the grant comes from funding
that the county has set aside from marijuana fine money to address
homelessness and youth drug prevention.

Douglas Cox, pastor at Park Hill Baptist Church and the lead chaplain
for the corporation, said the money will help give homeless families
bus vouchers and a lodging voucher for a stay prior to their trips.
Greyhound Bus gives the program a special rate, Cox said.

"The primary purpose is to be able to send homeless people back to
their home, back to the strongest support group that we find in our
society, which is typically family," Cox said.

"This enables us to take a very limited program and expand it to the
point where it becomes productive."

Cox said up until now, the program could only provide free bus
vouchers to people needing to get back to where they once lived within
100 miles in any direction.

"That often meant that they arrived in small towns without assets or
resources and simply caught the next bus back to Pueblo, which was the
nearest area with resources," Cox said.

"This allows us to connect them with Amarillo, (Texas), Denver and
Kansas City. And these cities already have this program in place. And
so we are connecting them to an existing program, which will enable
them to get to their homes."

He said the chaplains recently sent a man to Amarillo and he was able
to walk two blocks and get a ticket to Fort Worth, Texas.

"So just in two stops, he was already at his grandmother's house.
Essentially, we are connecting with a nationwide transit," Cox said.

The chaplains group had to turn away about half of its requests last
year because of the lack of funding.

Cox said the grant could possibly repatriate up to 350 people in
conjunction with existing funds to provide a solution for a maximum of
900-1,000 people.

"I don't look at it as marijuana money. I look at it as money that
came to the general fund," Cox said. "I look at it as community money."

Pace said communities such as Denver have bused homeless people to
Pueblo and they have no ties to the community.

"That's not what we are trying to do. We're trying to make sure that
homeless get sent back to a safe place with family and a support
network if they are stuck here in Pueblo," Pace said.

Pace said when voters approved the legalization of cannabis they
wanted to take money and jobs and put it toward the benefit of

"People are going to be using cannabis whether it's legal or not. We
might as well have those jobs and the revenue to do good things," Pace

Pace said there has not been hard numbers presented that say homeless
people are coming to the county because of marijuana.

"That said, if there is a direct result, there's now direct
mitigation," Pace said.
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