When the Fort Collins City Council met to discuss strategies for addressing homelessness and disruptive behaviors downtown, Councilman Ray Martinez said U+2 might be partially to blame for student homelessness.
“Many are homeless as they try and make their way through school,” Martinez said. “In my time as a police officer, I used to run into students sleeping in their cars in City Park. I think the U+2 laws are partially to blame.”
The council authorized the launch of a pilot program, estimated to cost the city $80,000. The program will begin in spring with the formation of a street outreach program, according to Martinez.
Martinez said it is likely the program will affect Colorado State University since a percentage of Fort Collins’ homeless population are students.
The outreach program will allow the city to partner with resources such as Homeward 2020 and Homeless Gear in order to provide vulnerable individuals or families with housing and help. It will also act as a liaison between those participating in disruptive behaviors and the Fort Collins Police Services.
In addition to outreach, the council included the expanded use of location diversion in their action plan. Location diversion allows perpetrators of disruptive behaviors to agree to avoid an area in place of fines or other penalties. It may be used as alternative or plea bargained sentencing.
Penalties for disruptive behavior, including location diversion, will be applied to all perpetrators, “whether they be homeless, students, blue-collar workers or what have you,” Martinez said.
Martinez said he thinks lawmakers need to be careful when making laws around homelessness.
“There are always unintended consequences in lawmaking, and making laws based on a person’s station in life is not healthy,” Martinez said.
Council listed enhanced communication and engagement as a priority for working with the homeless, including teaching how to appropriately discuss the homeless.
Homeless 2020 and the city will host quarterly community conversations about homelessness. Since a conversation held earlier this year, 40 people are off the street in Redtail Ponds, three people moved into single occupancy housing, two to three families moved into permanent housing from Faith Family Hospitality Housing and five families are no longer homeless through Homeless Gear’s One Village One Family program.
According to city council work session documents, tackling the issues associated with homelessness “relies on extensive collaboration, utilizing best practices and providing access to permanent housing for all.”
Collegian Reporter Rachel Musslemann can be reached online at email@example.com or on Twitter @rmusselmann.