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MacDonald: Fort Collins needs to provide more aid to homeless people

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.

The concern over Fort Collins’ homeless people is complicated, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore it. As students, we tend to forget about others that are struggling in our community and that some people in the City can’t get stable housing. Wherever these residents land for the night — maybe a park bench or curbside in Old Town — they all still have wants and needs, and we can’t be blind to that fact. 

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When struggling with homelessness, people may not have enough time to take care of themselves and their ailments. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, providing homeless housing is a priority for helping people get off the streets. But as obvious as that sounds, it isn’t easy. 

In a report done by the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, 56.1% of homeless people who responded to the report said they have one or more disabling conditions. This could include mental illness, substance abuse, physical illness, physical disability or HIV/AIDS, all of which often require medical care. 

Medical services like the North Colorado Health Alliance are looking to help the patients that come into their care — the ones that are discharged without a stable home to go to afterward — by helping identify temporary housing and other services for them after they leave. But homeless people sometimes need to return to the hospitals for more help. They aren’t getting better when they have no time to take care of themselves. 

These people are more than just a statistic, a person sleeping on a window ledge or something that we can forget about when we go home to sleep in our warm, cushy residences.”

Most homeless shelters in Fort Collins are not open 24/7 and end up pushing homeless people to jump between the street and a shelter. While it’s not a permanent solution, seeking temporary housing shouldn’t be an added issue to the compiled list of challenges of living on the street. 

The City of Fort Collins is taking steps to end homelessness by forming the Homeless Services Advisory Committee and placing a priority on finding housing to “make homelessness rare, short-lived and nonrecurring,” said Deputy City Manager Jeff Mihelich in an interview with the Coloradoan. However, it’s lacking.

According to recent plans, the City of Fort Collins is using the homeless housing developments of San Antonio and Austin, Texas,  as an example of what to do with their homeless people. 

Homelessness just isn’t being given enough thought. The significant growth of homelessness solution programs in Fort Collins only somewhat began less than a year ago. Sure, the City of Fort Collins is looking at other homeless projects around the nation to deal with an issue that could potentially grow just as the population of Fort Collins has, but these are people too, and they need attention now. They’re more than just numbers. 

Paying attention to the citizens who have lost nearly all they have involves more than just taking care of somebody who happens to be down on their luck. These people are more than just a statistic, a person sleeping on a window ledge or something we can forget about when we go home to sleep in our warm, cushy residences.

We should be giving more aid to this cause because the people who do have somewhere safe to sleep can afford to spend some of their time looking out for other people. 

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Alex MacDonald can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @alexandramacc.

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