NoCo Continuum of Care works to ‘make homelessness rare’

Austria Cohn , News Reporter

Editor’s Note: Read the Spanish version of this article here.

Northern Colorado Continuum of Care is an organization that offers resources, support and housing to people who are experiencing homelessness.

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The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development Continuum of Care Program connects with other groups and agencies to reduce homelessness across the country.

“The goal of our whole continuum is to make homelessness rare, short-lived and nonrecurring,” said Kelli Pryor, the director of NoCo CoC.

Since 2016, NoCo CoC has helped 514 veterans find housing, and in 2017, they helped 451 single adults, said Melanie Woolman, the vice president of community impact at United Way of Weld County.

The CoC program was first implemented in 1995, and in 2009, the Obama administration passed the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing Act, which further consolidated the CoC, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

(The CoC is) basically kind of helping funnel (and) coordinate housing and homelessness resources to make sure that the people that are in the Northern Colorado region are having equitable, very coordinated and effective access to resources.” –Kelli Pryor, Northern Colorado Continuum of Care director

“The Obama administration changed the expectations for (what) the Continuum of Care does, and at that same time, the Northern Colorado folks were increasingly frustrated with being a part of a large, rural Continuum of Care,” Woolman said.

“Since about 2012, that frustration really started to boil up, and then the region did a lot of planning and advocating and whatnot, both here locally as well as with HUD,” Woolman said. “It was finally on Jan. 9 of 2020 that we were notified that we would be officially and formally our own Continuum of Care.” 

Before Jan. 9, 2020, the CoC in this area included 56 other counties, which were vastly different than Northern Colorado, Woolman said.

The primary purpose of the CoC is coordinating the funding that is coming from the federal government, Pryor said.

“It’s basically kind of helping funnel (and) coordinate housing and homelessness resources to make sure that the people that are in the Northern Colorado region are having equitable, very coordinated and effective access to resources,” Pryor said.

Summer Garcia is a Coordinated Assessment and Housing Placement System coordinator who focuses on helping people who are impacted by homelessness find a place to live.

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The first step in finding housing is an assessment, which tends to be done in person, but because of the pandemic, some places have done it over the phone, Garcia said.

“Everyone gets that same assessment, and after that, they are placed on what we call a binding list,” Garcia said. “(It’s) a list of every single person that has done that assessment.”

From there, CoC comes together as a community to help match people to appropriate housing and resources based on the information provided through the assessment, Garcia said.

“It doesn’t matter what your income is, like if you’re getting out of jail,” Garcia said. “Our biggest focus is housing first, so we’re not going to make anybody be sober or anything like that.”

CAHPS comes together once a week to meet, and there are more than 40 partners, case managers and all sorts of people who help come up with a housing plan, Pryor said.

A list of all the CAHPS partners is on the NoCo CoC website.

“Being a part of this work is really amazing because there’s such a large group effort around addressing this issue,” Pryor said.

More information about NoCo CoC and homelessness statistics in Northern Colorado is available on the NoCo CoC website.

Reach Austria Cohn at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @AustriaCohn.