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City acts to provide shelter for homeless this winter

The Fort Collins Rescue Mission is one of the shelters available for the winter. (Ashley Potts | Collegian)

As with most cities in America, Fort Collins runs into the issue of not having enough spaces to house its ever-fluctuating population that identifies as homeless. 

Fort Collins solidified their plan for winter shelters for its homeless population and presented that plan to members of the community Monday evening. 

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The City held one of its regular community meetings in order to present the plan. Community meetings are held in public spaces in the downtown area and are a mixture of presentation and round table-style discussion. 

Council members Bob Overbeck and Ray Martinez were among the dozen plus community members in attendance Tuesday night. The plan for shelters is already approved and will not need to go to the Fort Collins City Council for any kind of vote, unlike other prior initiatives involving individuals who are experiencing homelessness. 

Tuesday’s meeting was straight forward as the City still does not have its desired number of shelter spaces for the coming winter, but the plan is more thorough than what they began with last year. 

“We, as a community, come together every year,” said Sue Beck-Perkiss, social sustainability coordinator for the City. “We would like (more people) to step up as well.”

Beck-Perkiss gave the point-in-time count number of roughly 300 for the number of individuals experiencing homelessness in Fort Collins. The number does not include those individuals who “doubled up” in a house, i.e. two families living under one roof. 

The City has only taken a count during the summer once. The population was significantly bigger in the warmer months, but because there are limits to what constitutes homelessness during a count, 300 is an ever-changing number. 

Fort Collins offers two separate overnight shelter options, in addition to warming shelters. Warming shelters are utilized from 6-10 p.m. in the evening. Individuals have the option of checking into Catholic Charities at 6 p.m. and are then given transportation to remote locations within the downtown and surrounding areas. 

The two overnight options are seasonal overflow shelters (SOS) and safe places to rest (SPTR). Each can hold a maximum number of 32 people a night and 12 to 15 people a night, respectively. SOS operates four nights a week, while SPTR operates three.

“The City does not provide shelter in our community,” Beck-Perkiss said. 

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SOS and SPTR are programs in the community and run by the community, or community-based shelter service. Most of the options for nighttime shelters are churches that are volunteer run. 

In case of a severe storm, the community has an emergency plan in place, which utilizes the community-based shelter service. 

From November to April, SOS, SPTR and warming shelters are in operation. SPTR was introduced last year and Beck-Perkiss is optimistic about starting the winter with all three options already in place.

“We think our numbers are going to get much better in the short term,” Beck-Purkiss said. 

All of the given shelters are dry shelters, with the exception of the Fort Collins Rescue mission, which qualifies as a “damp” shelter. Community members expressed concern that there is currently no community detox center in Fort Collins. 

Each shelter varies slightly, but men, women and families can be housed in the SPTR and SOS spaces throughout the season. The shelters are open from approximately 10 p.m. to 6:15 a.m. the following morning. Individuals may then utilize Catholic Charities and the Rescue Mission as daytime shelters; the Rescue Mission reopens at 10 a.m. and Catholic Charities opens at 8:30 a.m.

“(Shelters) are the part of the program the City is least involved in,” Beck-Perkiss said. “(But the City is still) an active partner.” 

Collegian news editor Rachel Telljohn can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @rtelljohn.

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