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Brust: Fort Collins finding solutions to homelessness with new project

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by the Collegian or its editorial board. 

Fort Collins City Council just announced a new project to combat homelessness. Previously, the city has passed ordinances like the ‘sit lie ban‘ that have indirectly criminalized homelessness, but failed to address the issue with programs and initiatives. Fort Collins began developing the Housing First Initiative alongside the Homeward 2020 program and the Sister Mary Alice Murphy Center for Hope earlier this summer. 

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The Housing First initiative is a step in the right direction for our city in combating homelessness. In recent commentaries about tackling homelessness, I was upset with the city continuing to pass laws that obviously discriminate against the homeless. The ‘sit lie ban,’ which prohibits citizens from occupying certain spaces, showed the cities ability to point out the problem and provide punishment, as well as their failure to provide a solution. The initiative is a refreshing shift from the city implementing punishment, to permanent solutions.

Ordinances to help clean up Old Town have inadvertently marginalized the homeless. The policies outlined in the ‘sit lie ban’ and ‘smoking ban’ almost directly prohibit homeless people from being homeless. Of course, it is the job of our city officials to ensure the attractiveness of our community. However, implementing laws to ensure the homeless do not disrupt our general population is immoral when there is not a solution to a pressing issue.

A permanent housing solution for even a fraction of the homeless population offers a plan of action and deterrence from committing these minor crimes. Not only will it get the homeless off the streets, it provides a progressive solution. Temporary relief more often that not results in homeless individuals back out on the streets. The Housing First project will try to provide services to avoid reverting back to the streets. 

In addition to the initiative providing permanent solutions, Housing First is not one size fits all. One premise listed in the goals of Housing First states, “All people experiencing homelessness, regardless of their housing history and duration of homelessness, can achieve housing stability in permanent housing. Some may need very little support for a brief period of time, while others may need more intensive and long-term supports.”

Housing First offers permanent solutions, and in addition it does not require additional programs to be completed prior to being admitted, such as sobriety treatment. In the list of core components of Housing first, priorities include low barrier admission policies, rapid entry, voluntary supportive services, housing varieties, and practices to prevent lease violations and evictions. 

Housing First finally provides citizens with goals and means to beat homelessness. After the onslaught of regulations punishing the homeless, there is finally a plan to prevent criminalization and offer sustainable solutions.  

Supportive housing might be the program Fort Collins needs to prevent excessive jail time for the homeless in minor situations. While the ‘sit lie ban’ and ‘smoking ban’ ensure the general public is comfortable, we now provide our homeless with a plan of action to avoid jail and the overwhelming burden of homelessness. 

Collegian editor Allec Brust can be reached at letters@collegian.com or online at @allecbrust.

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