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Council to hold homelessness work session Wednesday

Glenwood Springs Post Independent news graphic

Glenwood Springs City Council will discuss housing and homelessness at a work session from 5:30–7 p.m. Wednesday.

“Strategies to Address Housing & Homelessness: Lessons from Other Communities” will be presented by consultant Jenn Lopez and the Built for Zero Team.

The Built for Zero Team is made up of individuals throughout the region who have been trained in a national model whose results demonstrate that zero homelessness is possible, according to the meeting invitation. 

The meeting will include a brief overview of local efforts to house the homeless, a presentation by Lopez about Durango’s development of a homeless strategy, and plotting out steps to develop solutions that work locally, according to the draft agenda.

“What we want to do is just have an informational session, really, and the only ask at the end of it is people who want to have this conversation or be involved in talking further,” Wilde said.

The Durango presentation should take up the bulk of the work session.

“Debbie [Wilde] wanted me to talk because the Durango experience has some commonality with Glenwood Springs and that area,” Lopez said. “Durango’s maybe a couple of years ahead of Glenwood only because we had a bigger issue earlier than you all did.”

Durango’s approach to dealing with homelessness was influenced by a trip Lopez made to New Mexico.

“[Sheriff’s deputy Ed Aber] and I went down to Las Cruces, New Mexico, in 2017 to see a model called Camp Hope. It really became the inspiration for Durango to treat camping slightly differently,” Lopez said.

Camp Hope is a stepping stone to finding a home.

“They have a sanctioned camp. It looks like a KOA campground — it’s got permanent bathrooms, it’s got a security shed and storage, and everybody has their tent site, and there are rules, and they work together as a community. The goal of that camp is to get people used to living in a community and signed up for housing, and it gives them someplace safe to be until they can access housing,” Lopez said.

Nan Sundeen, director of Pitkin County Human Services, will make a short presentation on that county’s efforts.

“We will also have the Pitkin County Human Services director present briefly on what they’re doing in Pitkin County and how by having a strategy and community strategic plan that they’ve really had access to a lot of dollars, and that’s the other opportunity we have right now is to access a lot of resources and help if we choose,” Wilde said.

The pandemic is likely to exacerbate homelessness.

“With the whole with COVID thing and the economy thing this is not going away. We’re really in a position where every indicator is that we’ll see more homelessness,” Wilde said.

A June 19 Colorado Sun story said: 

“The COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project, formed in March to provide legal representation for tenants facing eviction, estimated in April that between 300,000 and 400,000 people in Colorado are at risk of losing their homes by September, after local and federal eviction moratoriums and emergency unemployment benefits expire.”

The Built for Zero Team will be represented at the meeting by Debbie Wilde, facilitator, city of Glenwood Springs; Marian McDonough, director of Catholic Charities; Nan Sundeen, director of Pitkin County Human Services; and Cristina Gair, director of the West Mountain Regional Health Alliance. Mind Springs Health, Aspen Homeless Shelter and the Garfield County Housing Authority are also part of the team.

Lopez was the director of Homeless Initiatives for Gov. John Hickenlooper for three years.

Glenwood Springs Council will also meet immediately following the homelessness discussion for a meeting on how to combat the rising spread of COVID-19 within the city and Garfield County.

cwertheim@postindependent.com


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