This was oringially published in The Coloradoan
By: lynn thompson
From where I stand, Fort Collins and Larimer County need to act immediately to keep unhoused people safe. The Fort Collins Homeless Coalition is calling on our elected officials to ensure:
- Temporary housing for everyone.
- Quarantine housing for people experiencing homelessness, and a sensible plan for moving people into quarantine that takes into account the dismal shortage of tests.
- An immediate end to camping ban enforcement.
We need to house everybody as quickly as possible. A majority of the people experiencing homelessness in Fort Collins are elders, have disabilities, are immune-compromised, or have other medical concerns that place them in the “higher risk” category. And most unhoused people are constantly exhausted, traumatized, and are frequently the targets of stigma, criminalization, and other mistreatment that increases stress and vulnerability. Not only are people more likely to be exposed to illness while staying in shelters, but people experiencing homelessness are among those likely to require intensive treatment to survive. Housing is a form of healthcare that we can offer immediately, and which will help our entire community.
Experts have told us that an immediate period of hardcore social distancing is necessary. We are being ordered to avoid gatherings of more than ten people, and Denver and Boulder residents are being told to “stay home.” Yet hundreds of people have no home to stay in, and no choice but to gather together in shelters. Even with increased distances between sleeping mats on the floor, a highly contagious disease such as Covid-19 will spread faster in a shelter environment than across individual/family housing. If infection spreads rapidly, our hospitals will be overwhelmed, and our most vulnerable neighbors will suffer greatly.
We know that our local governments are already responding to this pandemic, and we stand with them in demanding that they receive all the resources they need. Other cities around the world are leasing hotels for unhoused people, which seems like a good way to support local businesses.
During this time, we need shelters and services to remain open, and to have all the resources they need to keep helping people. We need vastly improved public hygiene facilities. We also need to make sure that nobody loses their housing – our state and nation need to issue immediate moratoriums on evictions & foreclosures, and on rent, mortgage, utility and loan payments.
In Fort Collins, we also need to stop enforcing the camping ban, so that people who feel safer sleeping outside of crowded shelters can do so, and so that everyone can stay in contact with outreach and health workers. The CDC recently published guidelines which urge law enforcement to not break up encampments and to let people sleep outside at this time.
We need to act together, now, in this moment of clarifying global solidarity. It is necessary for your health, for mine, and for ours. Right now, our community has empty rooms and buildings, and also people who need housing. Our community has struggling local restaurants, and also people who are going hungry. Our community has what we need to get through this crisis, and to fight for what we need beyond this moment, so that together we can build a healthier community with more justice, more safety, and more care. But we need to act with urgency.
Email your city leaders at firstname.lastname@example.org and county leaders at https://www.larimer.org/bocc and join our call to action. Visit fccan.org/fchc to keep updated on our efforts.