Big investments to address Colorado’s homelessness crisis become law
$200 million in federal relief money will fund recovery care, addiction treatment, give tax credits to service providers
A camp of people experiencing homelessness encircles the grounds of Morey Middle School on June 27, 2020, in Denver. (Quentin Young/Colorado Newsline)
Gov. Jared Polis signed four bills that address homelessness Tuesday. The bills are funded by $200 million in federal relief money made available by Polis’ administration.
Polis allocated the additional relief funding after The Affordable Housing Transformational Task Force exhausted an initial $400 million from the American Rescue Plan Act with its recommendations. The legislative task force met throughout 2021 and issued a report at the end of the year to the Colorado General Assembly. The recommendations within the report led to multiple bills, all of which passed in the 2022 legislative session.
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The bills funded by the additional $200 million handle grant funding for homelessness services and recovery care, a Denver metro regional “navigation campus“ that will offer homelessness resolution services, transform the Ridge View Youth Services Center into a substance recovery campus and provide tax credits to homeless service providers.
“The state prior to this session has not been able to make very large investments of state dollars in homelessness resolution,” said Cathy Alderman, chief communications and public policy officer for the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.
According to Alderman, there is uncertainty about what projects will receive funding and which organizations and nonprofits will apply for grant funding. There is still little understanding of what Denver’s regional navigation campus will do. However, Alderman said she expects applications will come from various regions across the state. Because each part of the state needs homelessness aid at different levels, she thinks the money will go quickly.
I think it’s just a matter of ensuring that we see the results, we learn from the results and we prepare ourselves to make investments long term.
– Cathy Alderman, of Colorado Coalition for the Homeless
The Ridge View Youth Services Center in Watkins was shut down last summer and will be converted to serve unhoused residents who have substance use disorders. It will be modeled after the Fort Lyons Supportive Residential Community in southeastern Colorado. Alderman believes the state will quickly implement its master plan for the Ridge View campus.
Recently, the White House encouraged states to put remaining ARPA funds towards housing. But in Colorado this year, the Legislature had already passed bills using the $400 million in ARPA funds, putting the state ahead in managing the housing crisis. In addition to the $400 million, Polis allocated the $200 million in relief money to fund more legislation based on recommendations from the Task Force on Economic Recovery and Relief Cash Fund.
“I think Colorado moved as quickly as we could,” said state Rep. Dylan Roberts, chair of the Affordable Housing Transformation Task Force. “But, we also did it in a really comprehensive and deliberate way to make sure we were making the best decisions we could with these funds.”
While the bills will begin to address Colorado’s ongoing housing and homelessness issues, Alderman said she worries about when the ARPA funds run out, because the state has not chosen to heavily invest in reducing homelessness before.
“I think it’s just a matter of ensuring that we see the results, we learn from the results and we prepare ourselves to make investments long term,” she said.
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