The City of Fort Collins will begin transitioning community members experiencing homelessness that have been temporarily sheltering outdoors at Heritage Park to the indoor shelter at Northside Aztlan Community Center (NACC). NACC has repurposed additional space on the second floor of the building to shelter the most vulnerable community members without homes (those who are over 65 years old and have specific underlying medical conditions). This new space allows them a separate room and designated bathrooms. This group is the most at-risk for dire consequences if they were to contract COVID-19. The primary overnight shelter at NACC is for men, and women can continue accessing overnight shelter at Fort Collins Rescue Mission and Community of Christ Church (operated by Catholic Charities).
The transition will begin Monday, April 27 and the City Parks Department will assess needed rehabilitation and restoration of Heritage Park later this week. This plan is supported by the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment who has determined that closing the outdoor site while continuing to provide indoor shelter space and adding additional space for at-risk folks is in alignment with Larimer County’s Safer at Home guidance. The additional space at NACC allows for better health monitoring, case management, and physical distancing. In addition, the City and partners are actively working to secure non-congregate shelter (individual, private rooms) for people who are at the highest risk of severe health impacts from COVID-19.
“We are doing everything we can to keep all community members safe during this unprecedented global pandemic,” said Police Chief Jeff Swoboda, “especially our most vulnerable and at-risk residents. The City is adapting Northside to provide increased space indoors to ensure as much physical distancing as possible can be achieved, and that additional health screening and monitoring can be provided to all users who enter the space.”
Since March 19, in response to public health guidance and global emergency, the City and community partners including Homeward Alliance, Homeward 2020, Catholic Charities, Fort Collins Rescue Mission, Health District of Northern Larimer County, and Summitstone Health swiftly established an indoor, centralized operations site at NACC to help keep people safe and slow the spread of COVID-19.
Shortly thereafter, community members began sheltering outdoors in tents in Heritage Park. While camping in parks is illegal in Fort Collins, the City made a temporary exception to this regulation during the Stay at Home Order because it provided another safe sheltering option for those experiencing homelessness. Since then, the number of people camping has continued to grow, and individuals come and go freely from the outdoor shelter area presenting health risks. City staff has consistently messaged to those camping that the outdoor facility was temporary and would shut down once the Stay at Home Order was lifted.
City staff is still working to evaluate when to transition NACC back to regular operations. This decision will be based on state and county public health recommendations.
For the most up to date information about both the indoor and outdoor shelter, sign up for the City’s daily COVID-19 email newsletter at: https://www.fcgov.com/eps/coronavirus.