Op Ed: Legal Action Filed for Immediate Housing to Help Fight COVID-19 

By The Fort Collins Homeless Coalition

The Fort Collins Homeless Coalition (FCHC), alongside other homeless advocacy groups across the state, has filed an Extraordinary Petition to require the State of Colorado to provide immediate housing to everyone as part of its emergency response to COVID-19. 

If everyone needs to stay home, then everyone needs a home to stay in. We are all being ordered by the State to avoid gathering in groups of more than ten people and to maintain at least six feet of distance between us when sharing spaces. But every day, thousands of people across Colorado have no choice but to share shelter services — using the same buildings, eating in the same facilities, sharing the same bathrooms, standing in the same lines, touching the same surfaces, sleeping in the same rooms, unable to follow public health guidelines no matter how hard they try. Every night, people in our communities must try to decide whether they are safer sleeping in a shelter filled with sick and coughing people, or facing a night outside in cold and often dangerous conditions. 

As of press time, at least ten homeless persons in Colorado shelters have tested positive for COVID-19, and there are at least five people who are “presumed positive” in Fort Collins shelters. The number is almost certainly much higher as testing has been widely unavailable. 

The State of Colorado must fulfill its obligations with regard to public health and take steps immediately to provide housing to unhoused people. People experiencing homelessness are more susceptible to catching this virus due to ongoing systemic injustices such as inadequate sleep, overcrowded shelters, and lack of hand-washing facilities. Unhoused people are also much more likely to get seriously ill if they do catch this virus because they are mostly elderly, disabled, and more likely to have underlying medical conditions and lack of access to healthcare. It is imperative to direct significant emergency resources to prevent infections, illnesses, and deaths. 

We understand that all our communities are responding to the epidemic, and we stand with all of Colorado in demanding that we receive all the resources we need. The Fort Collins Homeless Coalition has joined with Denver Homeless Out Loud, Boulder Rights Watch, Grand Junction Solidarity Not Charity, and others to file legal action that asks the State of Colorado to fulfill its duty to keep us all safe. 

It should not take a dangerous pandemic to teach us this fact, but if it does, may we all learn this now: Every human being deserves a home, and we are collectively healthier and better off when all of us are housed. Together, we must build a healthier community with more justice, more safety, and more care. 

The Fort Collins Community Action Network is a not for profit organization that has a 501(c)(3) classification from the internal revenue service. Your gift is tax deductible as provided by law.

To view the lawsuit:

Homeless 106 (1)

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