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State will launch two homeless facilities to address 'unbelievable epidemic'

denver homeless
Posted at 5:13 PM, Jun 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-01 22:49:20-04

DENVER — On the final day of a busy legislative season, several bills addressing homelessness successfully crossed the finish line, including House Bill 22-1378.

"This regional navigation campus can play a big role in getting people off the streets, helping them restore their dignity, get jobs, support themselves and being able to be a part of the Colorado that we love," Governor Jared Polis said Tuesday, moments before signing the bill.

The bill's proponents are confident that the campus, which will receive $50 million in federal relief money, will help those experiencing homelessness get back on their feet.

Representative Iman Jodeh, D-Arapahoe, is a sponsor of the bill and believes it's "an amazing opportunity for Colorado."

"Some of the things that we will be providing are mental health resources and job training," Jodeh said.

Providing those services will require a lot of help. Jodeh says local governments and nonprofits will need to get involved.

"We want to lean on their expertise to make sure we're doing it efficiently and correctly," she said.

The location of the campus has not been decided yet, but choosing that spot could be the hardest part, as any location will be met with either a supportive community or a disgruntled one.

"NIMBY-ism (Not In My Backyard) is a really big deal, and having that sense of "not in my backyard" is something that I think we all need to combat," Jodeh said. "Our unhoused neighbors and our homelessness issue is something that we are, in fact, all facing. And so, again, being strategic about where we are actually placing this will be important to the success of the overall program."

It's a similar conversation happening 30 miles southeast of Downtown. With Tuesday's passing of Senate Bill 211, the Ridge View campus, which once served as a residential treatment facility for troubled teens before shutting down last year, will be repurposed. Now the facility will serve as a place homeless individuals can receive help for addiction, according Colorado Coalition for the Homeless spokeswoman Cathy Alderman.

"So that's going to be physical health care, behavioral health care, again, substance use treatment, and individuals would be able to work on a long-term housing plan, as well as anything else that's going on," Alderman said.

According to the bill, those who have been experiencing homelessness for a longer period of time will be prioritized.

Mental Health Colorado finds that part of the bill counterproductive.

In a statement to Denver7, Mental Health Colorado CEO Vincent Atchity said in part, "This didn’t make sense to us, as in many cases it may make more sense to house someone who is more recently unhoused and more readily restorable."

Even so, there are few who would disagree.

"This is ... one of the largest investments the state of Colorado has ever made in homelessness resolution," Alderman said.

Amid the growing homeless crisis, those writing legislation hope the new laws will impact a population that could use the help.