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Greeley council hears report on city’s homeless issue

GREELEY — Greeley’s effort to combat homelessness in the community has begun to show initial results with more to come as the program takes shape, according to city staff’s report to the City Council this week.

In a study session, city leaders heard from the executive director of the Northern Colorado Continuum of Care and from Greeley’s assistant city manager, who’s position includes oversight of local efforts at combating homelessness.

Continuum of Care is a regional effort between Larimer and Weld counties. The region is federally determined but was carved out of the statewide homelessness effort in 2020, according to Kelli Pryor, executive director.

She noted that the program is meant to gather data over a region, align strategies and coordinate housing placement. About 50 partner agencies have some involvement in the organization.

In Greeley and Evans, 308 people were counted as homeless during the Jan. 24 point-in-time count, a required census that communities across the nation conduct in the last 10 days of January each year. Continuum also did a count three months later, after Greeley’s cold-weather shelter closed, and found 462 homeless individuals. In January 71% were in shelters; in April, only 17.5% were sheltered.

In addition to the seasonal cold-weather shelter, Pryor said, homeless people in Greeley have access to Greeley Family House and Guadalupe Shelter, both defined as transitional housing.

Continuum is working on a number of fronts to provide shelter including use of vouchers to help people pay rent to traditional landlords, rental assistance with case management and what Pryor called permanent supportive housing units.

The city contributes $10,000 to NoCo Continuum of Care. 

The city’s program, however, is much bigger. Juliana Kitten, assistant city manager, described a city-led effort that includes, according to the personnel chart, a manager, five case managers, a housing specialist and a peer specialist. She has oversight of the program.

Using a “housing first” model, in which homeless people are first provided housing in order to stabilize life situations and permit employment and health care needs to be addressed, the city is targeting about 60 chronically homeless individuals. It will determine, using help from the University of Northern Colorado, to research whether the city’s programs have a return on investment — a reduction in police or EMT services involving homeless individuals, for example. 

Kitten said the program hopes to see a decrease in use of ambulance services and in incarceration, stable housing after a year, reconnections with family members and successful efforts to find work.

All team members have been hired, she said. And 27 of 61 clients are enrolled. Seven were in housing as of Tuesday’s council meeting.

“None of this would happen without the support of what you are willing to do,” she told the council.

Councilmember Johnny Olson asked how many of the homeless people counted in Greeley are Greeley residents. Pryor said she was not aware of the exact number, but that the vast majority of the people who use the cold-weather shelter say they have been in Greeley for at least the past five years.

Olson said he needs to see the return on investment in order to respond to constituents. Mayor John Gates said he’s often asked about the homeless issue and needs information to help him respond.

He did relate two experiences with businesses — an implement company and a restaurant — that reported positive results from the program after seeking help from the city.

City Manager Raymond Lee said that it is important to recognize that “a certain percentage of that population will never leave the system.” Some will, however, and that’s where the city’s program can help.

Olson said he’s supportive of a program that provides “a hand up, not a hand out.”

Source: BizWest