Finding an organization to oversee a permanent homeless camp in Durango has proved challenging, city staff told the Durango City Council Tuesday.
Thus far, nonprofits focused on serving homeless residents in the area haven’t shown interest in managing a homeless camp and related efforts, Assistant City Manager Kevin Hall told council.
Local nonprofits function on a shoestring budget and can’t take on something new, Assistant City Manager Amber Blake said. While the city has land that could be used for the project, it can’t manage that kind of facility because it is not a social services agency, Hall said.
Councilors asked staff to continue holding meetings on how to address the problem and to keep looking for a group or groups that might partner on a camp.
“I don’t want to throw up my hands at this point,” Councilor Chris Bettin said.
The city and La Plata County commissioners have discussed several locations for an established camp with water, bathrooms, tent pads and other amenities. However, officials have not selected a site.
The facility would replace the dispersed camping north of the Tech Center, where the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office has allowed people to camp. Arresting people for sleeping in public places, when they have nowhere else to go, could be a violation of their constitutional rights, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
The dispersed campers have a dumpster and two port-a-potties, but many services are lacking, Councilor Melissa Youssef said. At the current site, there is a danger they could start a fire, it’s tough for law enforcement to police, and sanitation is imperfect, she said.
“I want to see us still moving forward in some capacity,” she said.
A permanent supportive housing facility for chronically homeless people and housing vouchers could also help address the problem.
Manna spent $25,000 on a study exploring permanent supportive housing. As part of that study, LeBeau Development is setting up a framework to attract a developer to build a 30- to 40-unit facility that could also serve as a low barrier shelter, city documents said.
However, any new facility would likely take several years to construct, Hall said.
Mayor Dick White said it was time to appeal to leaders in the community that might be able to move the project forward.
“We are talking about real people. Real people who live in our community,” he said.