Homelessness in Fort Collins#
Homelessness is a complicated issue with equally important community values that sometimes are in opposition with one another: compassionately aiding those most vulnerable and protecting public health, safety, and welfare for all residents and visitors. Traditionally, social services have been under the purview of counties; however, homelessness is happening in our cities and residents are contacting city elected officials to solve it. Therefore, cities across the nation have been expected to find creative solutions with partnerships being the key to making an impact.
We are never going to “end” homelessness. However, the goal is to put systems in place so that when a person does experience homelessness, it is rare, brief, and non-recurring. This is called “functionally ending homelessness or functional zero." The City and its partners who provide services to unhoused residents recognize there is an urgent need to coordinate a comprehensive response in Fort Collins in order to accomplish this.
Case management: Collaborative and planned approach to ensuring that a person who experiences homelessness gets the services and supports they need to obtain and maintain housing
Chronic homelessness: HUD defines chronic as someone with a disabling condition who has been homeless for 12 consecutive months or 4+ occasions totally 12 months over 3 years
Diversion: Reduce the number of people who need ongoing emergency shelter by assisting people to resolve immediate crisis by accessing safe alternative solutions upfront
HMIS: A Homeless Management Information System is a local information technology system used to collect client-level data and data on the provision of housing and services to homeless individuals and families, and persons at-risk of homelessness
Housing vouchers: Assist individuals and families by paying a portion of their rent so that rent and utilities are no more than 30% of their income
PEH: person/people experiencing homelessness
Permanent supportive housing: A subset of affordable housing that combines non-time-limited affordable housing assistance with wrap-around supportive services for people experiencing homelessness
Point in Time count: Count of sheltered and unsheltered people experiencing homelessness on a single night in January through regional Continuum of Cares; U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development allocates federal resources based on this data
Prevention: Interventions that reduce the likelihood that someone will experience homelessness
Rapid rehousing: Short-term rental assistance and services so that people can obtain housing quickly and increase self-sufficiency
Sheltered homelessness: Temporary living arrangement to include congregate shelters, transitional housing, and hotels and motels paid for by government entity or charitable organizations
Unsheltered homelessness: Primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings, including a car, park, abandoned building, bus or train station, airport, or campground
There are 3 different tiers of homelessness that have varying complexities and require different solutions for resolution.
Tier 1: those who have been homeless for 2 weeks or less. These are the least visible in our community and are mostly still connected to social supports and resources. In general, the national trend accounts for 40% of PEH.
Solutions: Prevention, rapid rehousing, diversion, sheltering
- Solutions: Prevention, rapid rehousing, diversion, sheltering
Tier 2: those who have been homeless for one year or less. May still have a vehicle and employable. May also have one disabling condition (substance use disorder, mental illness, physical condition, etc.). In general, the national trend accounts for 50% of PEH.
- Solutions: prevention, rapid rehousing, permanent supportive housing, housing vouchers, sheltering, case management, mental health and/or behavioral health services
Tier 3: Those who are chronically homeless (1 year or more). These are the most visible in our community, generate the most calls for service, likely have more than one disabling condition, and have the most difficulty exiting homelessness. In general, nationally this accounted for 10% of PEH. However, the national 2020 Point in Time count, showed this number increase to 27%. According to the 2022 Point in Time count, in Fort Collins 39% of unsheltered individuals were chronically homeless.
- Solutions: sheltering, intensive case management, mental health and behavioral health services, permanent supportive housing.
- Tier 1: those who have been homeless for 2 weeks or less. These are the least visible in our community and are mostly still connected to social supports and resources. In general, the national trend accounts for 40% of PEH.
In 2022, in addition to annual funding commitments from both federal and local sources (including both homelessness initiatives funding and human services funding), the City was also able to leverage American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to contribute to these solutions buckets by funding organizations that provide these services:
- Case Management.....$355,581
- Rapid Rehousing........$223,000
- Client Assistance........$369,504
- Total Funding $2,279,511
In addition, federal HOME-ARP funding ($2.6 million) will be allocated through the City’s competitive process in 2023 to programs and organization that assist individuals or households who are homeless, at-risk of homelessness, and other vulnerable populations, by providing housing, rental assistance, supportive services, and non-congregate shelter.
Frequently Asked Questions#
- The City of Fort Collins does not provide direct service (including distribution of clothing, food, or other goods). Rather, the City's efforts are focused on funding community agencies, convening critical conversations, and policy development. All those working to making homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring in our community are unified in the desire to build better systems, use data and collaboration to best respond, and recognize the myriad challenges that lead to homelessness in the first place.
- The City’s Homelessness Lead Specialist position was created in 2021, utilizing redeployed funds from Police Services and a contribution from the Poudre Fire Authority. This position has improved the coordination, system of services, and communication of homelessness services and response by leading the City's role in homelessness service provision, sheltering, and oversight/coordination including emergency shelter response. Aside from this position, 100% of the City’s homelessness initiative funding gets allocated to community partners to support direct service efforts.
- The City of Fort Collins works closely alongside numerous partner agencies to help people quickly exit from or avoid homelessness. Links below provide more information about some of these partners, many of whom welcome volunteers and engagement from community members:
- Homeward Alliance has helped more than 1,000 people escape homelessness in the last five years through services and coordinated response at the Murphy Center.
- Fort Collins Rescue Mission offers 24/7 shelter and services, providing more than 48,000 nights of shelter and 71,000 meals in 2021.
- Catholic Charities Samaritan House also offers shelter and case management for women and families, providing 14,800 nights of shelter and 26,800 meals in 2021.
- Family Housing Network provides services to homeless families with children, and have served over 91 families to date in partnership with Poudre School District and Catholic Charities.
- Neighbor to Neighbor helps people remain in their homes and regain stability, having supported nearly 7,500 households and prevented over 4,000 evictions in 2021.
- The Salvation Army provides meal, rent, and utility assistance, and offers a clothing room for all ages.
- Crossroads Safehouse provides shelter, outreach, and prevention programs for victims of domestic violence.
- United Way of Larimer County
- Outreach Fort Collins is a street-based outreach program that maintains our community as a safe and welcoming place while connecting those in need to services and supportive networks. In 2021, OFC responded to 652 community calls, engaged with 731 unique clients, and made 1,239 connections through immediate needs, education, and resources.
- The Northern Colorado Continuum of Care was recognized and established by HUD in early 2020, which promotes regional response and a unified effort to end and reduce homelessness in Larimer and Weld counties.
- It is not illegal to be unsheltered. However, criminal behavior is always illegal, and Police Services does enforce those behaviors regardless of housing status.
- During the summer months, Outreach Fort Collins will be expanding into midtown to provide street outreach in this area (officially starting in September 2022). They currently have been providing services in Old Town for 6 years and north Fort Collins for almost 2 years.
- Cleanup of campsites, especially in natural areas. The City spends about $100k each year between Utilities, Natural Areas, and Parks.
- The City will enforce ordinances as applicable to protect health and safety, including littering, obstructing a street or sidewalk, and others.
- Police Services' Mental Health Co-Responder program is active in our community to help individuals in crisis access appropriate community services while also increasing the safety for individuals and offices who encounter them.
- City Code prohibits camping on public property, although the availability of alternative sheltering options is also considered when deciding whether to issue a citation for camping. Currently, Loveland, Greeley, and unincorporated Larimer County do not have 24/7 shelters.
- Typically, there are two encampment cleanups done per month. These collaborative teams address concern areas to focus on increasing health and safety and decreasing accumulation of personal belongings and rubbish.
- Weimold v. City of Fort Collins (2020) was a case the City lost in district court under the principle set by a federal case (Martin v Boise) which resulted in policy to not issue citations under the camping ordinance to PEH when shelters are full or not available.
- Currently, shelters are at capacity in the City of Fort Collins.
- Police Services does issue citations for drug usage. While most drug possession and usage has changed from a felony level crime to a misdemeanor over the past few years, Police Service still cites for these crime. This, however, does not mean that folks are going to jail.
- The Housing First framework believes that all people deserve access to supportive services and housing, regardless of circumstance. So while there is no policy requiring agencies to confirm someone’s place of residence before providing services, we do know that a majority of people served by service providers do reside in Larimer County. According to data from 2021, approximately 72% were from Fort Collins or Loveland, 7% from Weld County, 6% from Denver, 2% from Boulder, 7% from another city in Colorado, and 6% from out of state.
- Data also shows that people who are more "transient" in nature do not tend to access long-term programs like case management or employment support programs. Anyone seeking services at the Murphy Center (the entry point for accessing services in Fort Collins) must complete an intake form, which generally is only done by people residing in this community.
- Fort Collins is no different than other cities across the county. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, increased cost of living, lack of mental and behavioral health services, and lack of attainable housing has only exasperated the homelessness crisis.
- The data shows that more folks are experiencing chronic homelessness and fewer chronically homeless folks are being housed.
- According to the annual Point in Time count, homelessness in Fort Collins has remained consistent since 2019.
- $38,000 - $95,000/person/year (emergency shelters, supportive services, publicly funded crisis services including jail, hospitalizations, and emergency departments, and other costs incurred due to lack of access to housing).
- Estimated cost of (affordable) housing is $13,716 - $25,716/person/year (1-bedroom apt).
Call Outreach Fort Collins at 970.658.0088 between 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday - Wednesday, and 9 a.m. - 8 p.m. Thursday - Saturday if:
- Someone is impaired by drugs or alcohol or experiencing a mental health crisis and does not pose a risk to self or others
- You feel uncomfortable and the situation is not illegal
- You are concerned for the health and well-being of someone and it is not illegal
- Call non-emergency police at 970.221.6540 if:
- There is illegal behavior happening (currently happening or the incident has passed and you want to report it)
- You feel unsafe for yourself or others
- Your business is requesting a safety consultation for crime prevention tips
- It is after Outside Outreach Fort Collins business hours
Call 911 if:
- There is a medical emergency, robbery, fire, crime is in progress, or imminent danger to self or others.
- Data is collected through Point in Time counts, input from non-profit organizations into the HMIS database that the Continuum of Care operates.
- The 2022 Point in Time survey report is available on the Northern Colorado Continuum of Care website.
- The City has a Community dashboard to track data in our community.
- Some outcomes the City's funding has contributed to:
- Between 2016-2021, Homeward Alliance helped about 1,000 people escape homelessness, and have seen more people getting housed year-over-year.
- Fort Collins Rescue Mission provided more than 48,000 nights of shelter and 71,000 meals in 2021.
- Catholic Charities provided 14,800 nights of shelter and 26,800 meals for women and families in 2021.
- Outreach Fort Collins has more than doubled its service area in the last 2 years.
- With more agencies reporting into HMIS, we are better able to understand the population and PEH are better able to access services through this coordinated effort. We have seen the number of PEH enrolled in programs increase each quarter. In Q1 2022, there were 2,995 PEH enrolled in programs. In Q1 2021, that number was 1,730.
- Improved and elevated coordination and collaboration with homeless service providers, the NoCO Continuum of Care, the Mental Health & Substance Use Alliance, NoCo Housing Now, Outreach Fort Collins, etc. helps with overall system delivery and leveraging resources.
- This includes a weekly call to case manage the highest need clients on the “by-name list” to find housing.
- The data also shows a decrease in the number of missing data information. Complete data helps us understand the root causes better in order to find the most appropriate solutions.
- The NoCO CoC participates in the Built for Zero initiative which underscores disparities of people experiencing homelessness by BIPOC households and provides processes and practices to improve homelessness programs and improvements in homelessness systems to address and minimize disparities.
- This is a national movement that starts with veterans that are experiencing homelessness and utilizes a “by-name list” process as well.
- An average of 49 people experiencing chronic homelessness are housed each quarter.
- Some outcomes the City's funding has contributed to:
- City staff is working with community partners to identify a winter bridge shelter solution that can be utilized this season and beyond.
- Increased street outreach to provide support for PEH, businesses and community members through Outreach Fort Collins with the expansion into mid-town.
- Increased investment in homelessness programs due to influx of federal relief funds (ARPA), including additional support of case management, resource navigation, street outreach, rapid rehousing, 24/7 shelter services, and others.
- Larimer County and Summit Stone have partnered to build a new behavioral health campus scheduled to open in fall of 2023 in unincorporated Larimer County in southwest Fort Collins to provide treatment for individuals experiencing a mental health and/or substance use crisis. Read more here.
- Fort Collins Rescue Mission is leading an effort to build a new 24/7 shelter facility at 1311 N. College that will better accommodate the needs in our community, including increased capacity for overnight sheltering, and additional on-site services to meet the needs of unhoused residents.
- City staff is exploring other options that have proven successful in other communities such as safe parking lots and safe outdoor spaces.
- Continued regional approach to leverage funds and capacity.
- Potential opportunities through the opioid abatement fund.
- New State agencies this year.
- With the passage of HB22-1278, the Behavioral Health Administration became operational on July 1, 2022 and designed to coordinate and collaborate statewide.
- Office of Homelessness Initiatives now under the Colorado Department of Human Services.
From November 2020 - May 2021, the Homelessness Advisory Committee (HAC) was convened, made up of stakeholders representing multiple associations, organizations, and agencies.
Based on their final recommendations, a comparative site analysis was completed in the first quarter of 2022.
In mid-2022, Fort Collins Rescue Mission selected 1311 N. College as their preferred location.
Learn more about the committee, their work, and the site analysis at the committee website linked below.
The Homeless Resource Guide is managed by a partnership between SummitStone Health Partners, Homeward Alliance, and Outreach Fort Collins. For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The current iteration of the Homeless Resource Guide, updated in February 2022, is being utilized as a regional tool for the Northern Colorado Continuum of Care and in partnership with the United Way of Larimer County.