About 100 people gathered for the Durango Homeless Summit on June 15 at the Durango Public Library to examine he issue of homelessness in the Durango area.
Homelessness is a problem, so the Durango Business Improvement District helped organize the summit and represented downtown and north Main Avenue businesses.
General Irv Halter, director of the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA), talked about the Division of Housing, which falls under DOLA, and other state resources available for Colorado’s communities to help address homelessness.
Allison George, director for DOLA’s Division of Housing, said her agency’s goal for homelessness is that it is rare, brief, and non-reoccurring. She also discussed permanent supportive housing. This type of housing assistance is not time-limited, and it is not necessarily transitional. Tenants in permanent supportive housing pay 30 percent of their income for housing and receive coordinated services to help them with other issues they might be facing.
Vanessa Fenley, with the Fort Collins homeless coalition, called Homeward 2020, said her city’s goals are similar to the Division of Housing. Fenley and her board of directors recently released an updated 10-year plan with annual action plans providing detailed steps for their community. This year, they are focusing on permanent supportive housing projects, a rapid re-housing program, shelter diversion work and a coordinated system for people who are homeless to get help.
Zoe LeBeau and Darlene Piszczek, nationally recognized experts, let us know how permanent supportive housing can really work to solve homelessness. Their programs meet people where they are with a low-barrier to entry. They are currently working on a permanent supportive housing project in Grand Junction that will open this week.
Aimee Cox is in Community Development for the city of Colorado Springs. Her moto: Think big, build simple, and act now. Colorado Springs has done an amazing amount of work adding more emergency shelter beds, expanding street outreach, increasing affordable housing, and creating a 10-year plan.
Paul Barnett, our last speaker, works with the state Department of Human Services in the Office of Behavioral Health. He let us know about four programs that help communities with services the homeless typically need.
Attendees agreed upon several things for Durango:
Increase the number of emergency shelter beds.Create a coordinated system for people who are homeless to begin receiving assistance.Build a permanent supportive housing project in Durango.Hire someone to help lead these efforts.Homelessness is a complex issue, with no easy answers. However, the Durango Homeless Summit helped all to see a path in which homelessness here is rare, brief and non-reoccurring.
email@example.com. Tim Walsworth is the executive director of the Durango Business Improvement District.