Since acquiring Fort Collins’ Open Door Mission homeless shelter Nov. 16, officials at the Denver Rescue Mission (DRM) are excited to serve the local homeless population and expand services to the estimated 800 homeless in the city.
The shelter –– renamed Fort Collins Rescue Mission –– was transferred to DRM after the prior owner, Rev. Richard Thebo, reached an agreement with the Colorado Attorney General after facing a lawsuit accusing him of improperly using donations for personal gain.
The new director, Chaplain Jim Carmack, said the shelter will continue with its mission to serve the public while also expanding coordination efforts with other charities in town and offering more than a hot meal and warm bed.
“This will be more than a place to land if you have nothing,” said FCRM director and Chaplain Jim Carmack. “We’ll always be that emergency place, but what we really want to go after is chronic and intentional homelessness.”
DRM has been active in northern Colorado since the late 1990s. The organization runs Harvest Farms in Wellington, a self-sustaining farm for people in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.
“We love the Northern Colorado and Fort Collins area,” said Brad Meuli, DRM president and CEO. “We’re really interested in being part of the community and getting to know the lay of the land.”
Carmack said when someone first walks in the door, they’ll be allowed to stay for free the first month.
If the individual agrees to enter into the Steps to Success program –– a four-step plan designed to encourage self-sufficiency –– the shelter will focus on connecting that person with area social services and providers who can offer counseling services, job opportunities and housing referrals.
If someone is dealing with addiction, they would have the choice to go to Harvest Farm. Spiritual guidance and integration into local churches is also emphasized, with the hope that the individual will become a “productive, self-sufficient citizen of Fort Collins.”
“The idea behind it is as soon as you walk in the door, we help you develop a plan to walk out the door and never return,” Carmack said.
The shelter serves an average of 75 meals a day with about 55 people staying overnight. This is about half of the beds available in Fort Collins for the homeless population, with Catholic Charities providing the other half.
There hasn’t been much collaboration between the two shelters in the past, but that’s going to change, according to Carmack and Glen Good, Catholic Charities regional director of Larimer County.
“We certainly do support them,” Good said. “Catholic Charities has a long time partnership with Denver Rescue Mission and we’re anxious to building that same partnership here in Fort Collins.”
Both Carmack and Meuli said CSU students are always welcome to volunteer at the shelter.
“I really believe that every CSU student has within them a heart for the hurting and if you put it in front of them they’ll do whatever they can do to help,” Carmack said. “You’re never more alive when you give versus when you take.”