Homelessness ordinance protestors dominate Fort Collins City Council meeting

Community members speak about homelessness in Fort Collins during a city council meeting on April 19th.
Community members speak about homelessness in Fort Collins during a city council meeting April 19.

Fort Collins citizens wearing yellow tags reading “sleep is a human need” spoke against the ordinance that allows homeless people to be ticketed for sleeping in parks during Tuesday night’s City Council meeting. Arguably the most moving part of the night would be when one citizen asked members of the Council to stand up and put a tag over their heart, as members of the audience stood in support while they spoke.

Many citizens who spoke were outraged that the City of Fort Collins could recognize “Every Matters day” while still ticketing homeless people trying to sleep. Many women were concerned about the reduction of beds that will go into effect May 1 that will reduce the number of beds for women. In the City of Fort Collins, there are 61 more people sleeping on streets than there are shelter beds.

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Kelly Conner, a Colorado State University student in the school of social work, spoke on how homeless people are left off the city’s proclamation of incivility, suggesting that their statement is incomplete. 

“I think that the city should take note of what CSU is doing and work towards inclusive excellence and follow in their steps,” said Conner.

Community member Esther Oggula, who holds a master’s degree in social work from CSU, expressed her concern over ticketing the homeless for sleeping.

“City Council still has not given us an answer as far as, ‘Where are people who can’t take advantage of shelter beds, or on nights that those shelters are full?'” Oggula said. “Where are these people supposed to go in order to avoid being ticketed?”

So far in 2016, no tickets have been written on nights when beds were full, according to the Fort Collins Police Department.

Many homeless members of the community who spoke during the open forum were absent when City Council members spoke during the follow-up, as noted by Council member Gerry Horak.

A spokesperson from Project Homeless Connect gave an overview of their recent community event as well, who said 400 guests were served that day, 70 coats and 80 shoes were donated and 24 bikes were repaired. 375 community members partook in Project Homeless Connect, many of whom were CSU students, showing that many organizations are invested in this issue.

“For anyone to suggest that homeless people don’t matter in this city is unfair. It’s frankly incorrect and it’s misleading,” said Darin Atteberry, Fort Collins city manager.

The city has been working hard on the issue, according to Kristin Stephens, District 4 councilwoman. To say the city is not doing anything is not moving the conversation forward into a solution, she said. The City of Fort Collins does not support camping as a solution to homelessness. 

Erin Krigger can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @littleekrig.

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