Fort Collins Looks to San Antonio During Homeless Crisis
Philanthropist, Pat Stryker purchased land in north Fort Collins as a potential campus site for the homeless. The site has been called a "medical triage" where mental health, rehabilitation, medical services and shelter will be available all under the same roof.
However, there has been community push back for fear of neighborhood safety, creating a "ghetto" situation or bringing down the value of businesses in the area. This has sent City Manager Darin Atteberry back to the drawing board as officials "reset" the conversation.
With an increasing homeless population in Fort Collins, officials are looking to San Antonio, Texas, for means of inspiration. Over the past twelve years, their philanthropist and city funded campus, Haven For Hope, has decreased local homelessness by 80 percent.
At Haven For Hope, services extend well beyond the campus and they've successfully gained community support.This was achieved by opening public medical, dental, vision, mental health and substance abuse clinics.
Haven organizers also opened dental assistant and chef training programs along with child care. Additionally, 140 low-income apartments were built next door to Haven, half of which are occupied by San Antonio residents and the other half by Haven graduates.
Police keep an eye on known campsites and issue 72-hour notices of encampment clean outs. They also provide information about Haven For Hope which offers a courtyard, a bed for everyone who enters and three hot meals a day.
Not everyone chooses Haven For Hope, as women and men are separated at night and animals are not allowed. This doesn't prevent Haven Outreach Manager, Ron Brown, from visiting encampments to distribute water, bus passes, hygiene kits and clean socks.
Haven For Hope also helps the older homeless population to regain their social security which is often stopped due to lack of address.
All and all, Haven For Hope says their success isn't measured buy how many people come to Haven but by how the homeless are cared for even as they remain on the street.
There's a lot to unpack here and multiple learning opportunities for officials as we move toward a solution to the escalating Fort Collins homeless crisis.