Douglas County’s Homelessness Initiative will be discussing a potential short-term housing solution in the form of a Pallet center at its June 9 meeting. The goal is to provide more local resources to unsheltered people.
The committee will be evaluating possible locations for a Pallet center, which would include shelter space, bathrooms and an office for reintegration and human services. Douglas County Commissioner Abe Laydon said it was a “housing plus approach,” where case management services are provided to help residents move to permanent housing.
“Instead of a traditional shelter, Douglas County is exploring an initiative center, which are clean, aesthetic, camouflaged, case managed and they are not a forever home,” he said. “There would be sobriety and wellness checks and job-seeking requirements in order to remain in the program.”
Currently, there is not a homeless shelter in Douglas County. Laydon said the committee is planning to use the American Rescue Plan Act funds from the federal government to address the need for emergency housing.
Recently, the county received funds to participate in a homelessness initiative in Arapahoe County called the GOALS facility, but that facility is exclusive to families.
“We’re looking at other locations in Douglas County for individuals that don’t qualify for GOALS,” Laydon said.
Additionally, the homelessness initiative has approved three Homeless Assistance and Resource Teams, which partners a social worker with a law enforcement officer to respond to people experiencing homelessness. Laydon said the teams could roll out later this year, but are being held up by a lack of temporary housing.
A Colorado court ruled last year that a camping ban in Fort Collins couldn’t be enforced against a homeless man who was sleeping in his car because he had no shelter options for an overnight stay.
“Providing emergency shelter within a community is legally necessary to maintain public safety and enforce relevant codes,” Laydon said.
Douglas County’s proposal is modeled after a similar Pallet center in Aurora, which Laydon and others toured recently. Laydon said the Aurora location shows the housing option challenges many of the stereotypes of a traditional homeless shelter.
“We realized that this model is readily available in terms of supply chain … and it made us aware that they can be clean, safe, beautifully organized and really secure,” Laydon said.
A potential location that Laydon said will be discussed on June 9 is next to the county Justice Center, where it could possibly work in tandem with reintegration efforts happening at the county and the Justice Center.
Laydon said the county recently approved a full-time reintegration position at the Justice Center to help provide transportation and connections to resources.
However, the proposal has already received pushback from Castle Rock councilmembers who oppose a shelter in the area.
At the May 17 Castle Rock council meeting, Mayor Jason Gray and a majority of the council were vehemently against the idea and directed staff to draft a letter expressing the town’s opposition to send to the county.
“We need to have a caring, empathetic and sympathetic voice for our homeless and at the same time, I don’t think there’s a place in Castle Rock to have a shelter, I think that there are other places in Douglas County that lend itself to a shelter better than us,” Gray said.
Only Castle Rock Councilman Tim Dietz, who sits on the county homelessness initiative committee, spoke up in favor of the idea because it would support the code enforcement efforts.
“It would be in unincorporated Douglas County in a well-secured, monitored place with temporary housing … where people can come and transition out of town,” Dietz said. “By having these temporary beds, we could eventually have a no camping ban in Castle Rock.”
On top of the conversations about HART and a Pallet center, the homelessness initiative committee continues to work on signage with contact information for HART, information on donating to the Douglas County Community Foundation and a safety reminder not to hand money out of car windows.
Laydon said the signs will be placed around the county, such as at busy intersections, to direct residents, both housed and not, to existing resources and promote public safety.
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