A Program of the Colorado Nonprofit Development Center
A Program of the Colorado Nonprofit Development Center

A Step in the Right Direction

The story of each person experiencing homelessness is unique. Each of the clients that Outreach Fort Collins works with has a specific background, strengths, and challenges to face as they work to escape homelessness. Even as we advocate for a housing first approach, for some of our homeless clients the goal of independent housing may not be the final destination . . .  but it can be a step in the right direction.

During the spring and early summer of 2018, Outreach Fort Collins worked diligently with various other service providers to get a long-term client of OFC into housing. This client ultimately was housed in a permanent apartment where he had support services and case managers available. The ongoing plan was that the client would receive limited in-home health care and assistance. We hoped that remaining independently housed would be manageable. Unfortunately, this client's health had so declined in the months leading up to housing that now the case managers are working towards assisted living or a skilled nursing facility. While we would hope that all our clients would be able to maintain independent housing, this is not always the reality.

Even so, there are some bright points. If this client had remained on the street during the last two months, his health was so poor that he may have died. Additionally, now that he is housed, his case workers can find him, he has access to a telephone, his use of the emergency room has decreased significantly, and he has stability for the first time in years. Independent housing for this client was not ultimately the final destination but was a step towards getting him the care and support he needs to live in health and success.

One of the stengths of Outreach Fort Collins is that we are able to meet our clients where they are at, building trust and connecting them with partnering agencies that can address their particular needs. Even when OFC is no longer the primary point of contact, we continue to advocate for our clients and work to prevent a potential relapse into homelessness.  

Ben's Story

After 12 years of chronic homelessness, Ben has a place to call his own. Like many others who have transitioned from living on the streets to being housed, Ben’s journey has included many unexpected turns and challenges remain. At least for now, he doesn’t have to worry about where he is going to sleep. (Please note, we are not using the client’s real name to protect his identity.)


Outreach Fort Collins (OFC) has been working with Ben since our first weeks as a program. At first, time was spent simply building rapport. Some of the early interactions were escalated. Over time, however, his disruptive behavior became less frequent, as he worked closely with his parole officer and therapist and OFC formed a trusting relationship with him. Since June 2016, OFC has had over 140 interactions with Ben.


Ben was first selected for a permanent supportive housing program last spring. Unfortunately, at the last  the placement fell through. This meant that he was back at the start of the housing process.


Ben’s current placement is the result of several months of work by multiple agencies. Ben was selected as the most appropriate referral by the Northern Colorado CAPHPS team (Coordinated Assessment and Housing Placement System). His placement required extensive documentation, including background check, verification of disability, and proof of chronic homelessness, all of which had to be approved through the Colorado Department of Housing.


Since receiving his unfurnished apartment, OFC has worked with Ben to make the space his own. A trip to the surplus and dollar stores purchased a chair, kitchenware, and the basics of cleaning and personal care products. OFC is waiting to find out if grant money is available to help Ben purchase furniture. If this doesn’t work out, the team will help him look for other options.


In the two years that Outreach Fort Collins has been operating, Ben is the seventh client we have supported through the housing process. Currently, there are three additional clients in the process of being housed.


Reflecting on Ben’s housing placement, Lisa (Behavioral Health Clinician for OFC) shared that, “It feels like a big success. He has a significant history of homelessness and many layers of complexity. But change is possible.”


Lisa acknowledges some of the challenges remaining for Ben. These include fully furnishing the apartment, continuing to work on his mental health and substance use issues, and learning to navigate a new community. Perhaps the biggest challenge – and opportunity – for Ben is living into a new identity, one not centered on living on the streets.  


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