Hidden Homeless Event Draws Large Crowds

The Affordable Housing team presented a panel discussion on Youth: The Hidden Homeless.  EIGHTY-FIVE people attended the program and gave it a high rating on the evaluation sheet! You can read more about the lead up to the event and see slides from the presenters here.  Read on for a recap of this important discussion!

Hava Simmons, Social Caseworker Manager with Larimer County Department of Human services, spoke about the federal Chafee Foster Care Independence Program for youth aging out of foster care. Chafee is a voluntary program that helps young people acquire life skills.  The county contracts with the Matthews House for direct services. The county also helps youth coming out of the Department of Corrections.

Jerri Schmitz is the founder and Executive Director of the Matthews house, which serves youth who lack a support system; many have been in foster care as they transition into adulthood.  There was a gap in services after foster care and current programs were more punitive than helpful. Grants helped purchase a house, since she felt it was important to have a place that was like a home. In 2012, they opened the Community Life Center to work to prevent problems that had been showing up later.  In 2015, they opened the Genesis Project. Both locations offer parenting class, homework help and one-on one transition facilitation.

Peter, a now homeless youth, was bright and articulate about his situation.  At age 5 he was put in charge of his 3 siblings by a mother who was a drug addict and gave him meth because she wanted someone to smoke with.  His mom left and his siblings were placed in a foster home that didn’t want him because he was 10 years old. It was hard for him  since he saw himself as their dad. He was in and out of foster care for 9 years, in 12 different homes. He earned a GED certificate and an award from Realities for Children that enables him to attend college to study mechanical engineering.  He has been living in his car, but now lost his car; the Matthews house, his mentor, and connections have been a life saver for him.

Margaret Crespo, Chief Academic Officer of the Thompson School District discussed the aid that schools provide for homeless youth. “Each year, one in three homeless students in Colorado switches schools at least once. It takes a child four to six months to regain the academic ground lost by one move. Children who are homeless are eight times more likely to suffer abuse and neglect than other children.” The district facilitates homeless students by providing transportation, free meals, school supplies, clothing, and food for the weekend and vacations.  Poverty is like a punishment for a crime you didn’t commit.

Chris Nelson with Attention Homes in Boulder talked about the services they provide:  street outreach, a drop-in center, an overnight emergency center, mental health and substance abuse courses, education and employment services, life skills acquisition, intensive case management, mentoring, transitional housing and in October they hope to break ground on a permanent supportive housing for 18-24 year olds.

Up Next With Affordable Housing: Fort Collins Homeless Shelters Tours May 10

If you wonder what it is like inside a homeless shelter?  League members and friends are invited to a tour of these facilities in Fort Collins on Wednesday, May 10. We will meet at Catholic Charities Mission at 460 Linden Street at 9 am.  From there we travel to Fort Collins Rescue Mission at 316 Jefferson for a tour starting at 10:15. The last visit is Faith Family Hospitality’s Day Center at the Mennonite Fellowship, 300 E Mathews at 11:30.

To join in this tour or get more involved in our Affordable Housing team, contact Marilyn Heller (Housing@lwv-larimercounty.org).


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