City Council approves temporary homeless shelter for winter

Samantha Ye

The Fort Collins Rescue Mission will be moving its overnight shelter services to a new temporary warehouse space in order to accommodate more people with social distancing. 

Fort Collins City Council approved an emergency ordinance Tuesday to bypass the development review process and swiftly allow a homeless shelter setup at 1301 Blue Spruce Drive, a building owned by the Food Bank for Larimer County. The City will lease part of the property from September through April 2021. 


“This is a huge community need, and we have an obligation to provide a safe place for people, especially during the pandemic.”-Emily Gorgol, Fort Collins City councilmember

It will hopefully be able to safely shelter 100 to 150 people, though they are still waiting for final numbers from the health department, said Seth Forwood, senior director of FCRM. They will transfer most of their operations, including daily meals, to the new Blue Spruce location.

“Adequate shelter space to accommodate physical distancing will become increasingly critical when cold winter weather sets in and people are (at risk) of cold and flu season viruses as well as COVID-19,” said Beth Sowder, City director of social sustainability.

FCRM’s current location in Old Town has had to turn away about 15 to 20 people each day due to capacity constraints imposed by COVID-19, Sowder said. The actual number of people who need shelter may be higher since people might not go to shelters if they know capacity is full. Catholic Charities has so far had enough capacity to serve women and families.

The City will pay about $30,000 a month to provide rent, utilities, restroom space and daytime security for the area, Sowder said. Federal funding from the CARES Act is expected to cover costs through 2020, and the City’s general fund will cover the rest.

Though the warehouse will only be open for overnight shelter, people can access day services from the Murphy Center located down the street. Because those facilities are outdoors right now, the City is looking to provide more indoor day-shelter options by October, Sowder said.

Council directed City staff to look for new shelter space after shutting down the emergency homeless shelter at Northside Aztlan Community Center June 19. The action left about 100 people without overnight shelter.

Public commenters at the City Council meeting criticized those City actions as well as the disbanding of the homeless encampment at Heritage Park accompanied by issuance of illegal camping tickets.

For this time around, Councilmember Emily Gorgol emphasized the need to plan for a good exit strategy.

“This is a huge community need, and we have an obligation to provide a safe place for people, especially during the pandemic,” Gorgol said. “I think we owe it to our service providers, the people experiencing homelessness and our staff to really think about taking the six months to think about the long-term plan, so we’re not constantly moving people and then putting them back.” 

Samantha Ye can be reached at or on Twitter @samxye4.