Homeless Gear Issues Statement on “Transient” Population, Supply Distribution

PRESS RELEASE

Media Contacts:

For Immediate Release:

Homeless Gear Issues Statement on “Transient” Population, Supply Distribution

Fort Collins, Colorado, July 5, 2017

In the wake of the recent, tragic death of Helena Hoffmann and the subsequent arrest of the alleged perpetrator—a man who self-identified as “transient”—several local news outlets published stories on the broader topics of homelessness and transience. In the context of Homeless Gear, sources raised questions about our processes for collecting and distributing gear—and, more specifically, whether those processes were at least partly to blame for the recent increase of people identifying or identified as transients in Fort Collins, and the associated increase of disruptive behaviors throughout the City.

We are horrified and saddened by the heinous crime that prompted this community-wide discussion, and our thoughts are with the Hoffmann family. The community deserves our responses, and it is our sincere hope that this letter provides some clarity.

  • The Distribution program is one of six Homeless Gear programs (not including the Murphy Center, which is an initiative of Homeless Gear) that, collectively, provide a continuum of services to people experiencing homelessness—everything from basic-needs assistance to help obtaining and retaining employment and housing. We distribute supplies in the context of that continuum, and we do it because survival is both an important cause in-and-of-itself and a prerequisite to everything else: a person must survive homelessness in order to escape it.
  • We have long done what many are now calling on us to do: differentiate between our local community of people who are homeless and those who are just passing through. We do not distribute gear, by-and-large, to the traveler population—a policy we implemented years ago precisely to discourage abuse of our services.
  • Homeless Gear distributes the vast majority of our gear (in Fort Collins) through two outlets: a Gear Room at the Murphy Center and a Street Outreach vehicle. We only distribute high-value gear items (tents, backpacks, footwear) through the Gear Room. The Gear Room is only accessible to registered guests of the Murphy Center, and guests who are simply passing through—determined as part of our intake process—do not have access to supplies. Supplies are limited according to living situation (housed, homeless outdoors, homeless in a shelter or vehicle, etc.), time of year (for example, we only distribute sleeping bags and other winter items from October through April), quantity and frequency. Abusers can be banned from the Gear Room, and some have been.

None of this is to deny the fundamental truth, expressed by virtually every segment of this community, that some people who are traveling through Fort Collins do cause problems—particularly in the downtown area, but throughout the rest of the City too. We believe that we are in a unique position to address the problem.

That is why, beginning more than two years ago, we began investing our time in solutions. We were a part of the task force that conceptualized and eventually launched Outreach Fort Collins (our Executive Director now sits on the Board of Directors), a daytime street-outreach program that seeks both to connect with people in need and respond to disruptive behaviors in the downtown area. We have participated in community conversations, spoken with business and other community leaders, toured the natural areas and participated in clean-ups, evaluated and adjusted our programs and sought feedback at every turn.

The work is nowhere near complete, but we are proud to be a part of it.