Homelessness protest begins in Jefferson Park

Erin Douglas

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An occupy effort in Jefferson Park to draw attention to perceived inadequate facilities for the homeless population of Fort Collins began Monday around 5 p.m. Members of the homeless community are protesting the lack of individual beds in shelters, as well as the lack of resources for homeless families and couples.

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Jefferson Park is across the street from the Fort Collins Rescue Mission and many take to the park when the shelter’s beds are full. According to Beth Osborn, the leader of the protest, people can face a $100 fine for sleeping in the park and three days in jail if they cannot pay the fine.

Osborn claims that the Fort Collins City Council told her there are an adequate number of beds available to the homeless. However, Osborn claims that there are only 17 overflow beds available for women in Fort Collins. The housing for men and women is separated in the shelters, and Osborne said there are more homeless men than women in Fort Collins.

“I’ve been here [in Fort Collins] for four months and I’ve never had a bed,” said Amber Lindsay, a 19 year old who moved here to escape violence and drug problems among the homeless in New Mexico.

Lindsay is currently fighting a $500 ticket for sleeping in one of the open spaces after dark.

“Where do we sleep when the shelters are full?” Lindsay said. “I would love to go to college someday. I have my GED. But, without money and without help, people get stuck out here.”

A common complaint among protesters was the lack of resources available to married couples and families. In the shelters, married couples are separated, inspiring one man’s sign, which read, “Let me hold my girl.”

To Missy Sundberg, a mother of two boys under the age of four, homeless family resources seem non-existent.

“My husband and I both work, but we cannot find a place we can afford or get approved,” Sundberg said. “I think especially because of the student population in Fort Collins, finding low income housing is really hard.”

According to Osborn, protesters plan to move their efforts to the edges of Jefferson Park after 11 p.m. tonight where they will not obscure foot traffic and face their signs toward the street.

“It’s the simple things,” said Osborn. “Notice I’m alive. Notice I exist. It’s not the people of Fort Collins that is the problem. It’s City Council not realizing what a problem this is.”

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A development proposal is currently under review for Jefferson Park by the City of Fort Collins. According to Osborn, their protest will last “as long as it takes.”

Collegian Reporter Erin Douglas can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @erinmdouglas23