Call to action – NACC shelter closure

June 13, 2020

CALL TO ACTION: City Council has affirmed their decision to close down the Aztlan Center as a Covid-19 emergency shelter on June 19th, despite having no plan to fill the massive service gaps this will create. We need to tell them this is not okay.

Closing the Northside Aztlan center (NACC) will mean:

  • At least 100 people who are currently sleeping indoors at night will have nowhere to shelter at night. Due to Covid concerns, the regular shelters (Catholic Charities and Rescue Mission) will only be operating at half capacity for the foreseeable future.
  • The closure will create & worsen food and meal shortages
  • Health screenings will be more challenging, as will accessing basic needs like bathrooms, hand washing, and drinking water
  • Up to 200 people will have nowhere to shelter indoors during the day

By closing the NACC now, City Council is threatening to turn a public health emergency into a humanitarian crisis. It is inhumane and strikingly unjust to force people onto the streets while continuing to ticket them for resting, sleeping, or camping in public spaces.

We, the Fort Collins Homeless Coalition, believe:

  • The City should immediately pass an ordinance repealing Fort Collins’ camping ban (17-181). Every human being needs sleep to survive, and hundreds of people will have no option except to meet this need in public spaces. Moreover, disrupting encampments is still against CDC guidelines during this pandemic. The City MUST end its inhumane camping ban by June 19, 2020.
  • During this pandemic, people need individual & family housing, and FCHC has been asking the City to provide hotel rooms for everyone since March. We still believe that the City should look for housing as its long-term solution, including purchasing hotels or apartment buildings to immediately use for this purpose.
  • We need universal housing. Among other things, the City should be joining us in lobbying the federal government to restore HUD funding for the construction of the millions of subsidized housing units that are needed in this country.
  • Public bathrooms should be re-opened, and additional restrooms and hand-washing stations should be provided by the City. When possible, these facilities should be located adjacent to encampments.

The Covid-19 pandemic is far from over, and City Council’s actions threaten people’s health. But mass homelessness is also a public health emergency. Instead of spending money on over-policing houseless people, the City should spend its money on housing and health services. We need to divest from policing, and invest in community.

Criminalizing poverty and homelessness was always a failed strategy and a serious injustice. Doubling down on it, again and again, during a global pandemic is as stark an illustration of this fact as anything we have witnessed.

Please write to City Council at cityleaders@fcgov.com to tell them to this is unacceptable. At a minimum, please ask them to repeal the public camping ban, provide housing, and to open public bathrooms and provide hand-washing stations.

We encourage you to participate in public comment during the next Council session, at 6pm on Tuesday, June 16th. Instructions can be found here.

You can read more about this appalling decision via the Coloradoan article, if you want, or watch the Council session here. While the majority of City Council did vote to close down the NACC immediately, it may be noted that Councilmembers Kristin Stephens, Emily Gorgol, and Ken Summers all voted to have the NACC stay open through August while other solutions were sought, but did not prevail.