Durango’s Neighbors in Need Alliance moved one step closer to creating a permanent camp for the unhoused in the city thanks to a $90,000 grant from the Colorado Health Foundation.
NINA, a coalition of faith-based organizations and community advocates, has been exploring legal, safe sleeping options for people experiencing homelessness in Durango. A 2019 strategic plan, funded by the city and La Plata County, listed a permanent camp as an additional investment opportunity to help assist people facing homelessness.
For NINA, it’s critical to complete the permanent camp project before winter, said Caroline Kinser, a volunteer.
“Until we got the grant, we didn’t know exactly where we stood,” Kinser said. “Now that we have the grant to initiate the process, our next step is to work with the city.”
After reviewing four sites, NINA and partners from the temporary camp at Purple Cliffs have identified a potential location for the camp and submitted a proposal to the city of Durango. Kinser declined to say where the proposed permanent camp would be located, but city staff plan to present the plan to City Council during a June 23 study session, she said.
The proposed camp, designed in partnership with people experiencing homelessness, will provide water, sewer and other basic features for 30 to 40 community members. It will be a self-governing community and give residents access to services that help them move toward permanent housing, according to a NINA news release.
“We’re organizing ourselves so we can do all of it as quickly as possible assuming they give us the spot. If they don’t give us the spot, it all goes back to the drawing board,” Kinser said.
La Plata County’s homeless population doubled from 91 people in 2018 to 192 people in 2019, according to the city and county strategic plan on homelessness. But that number could be higher. About 300 people who self-identified as homeless received services from Axis Health System in 2019, the plan said.
Homelessness in Durango is anticipated to continue growing, especially as a result of the economic impacts of COVID-19, the NINA news release said.
“If you don’t have any place to go, how could you possibly hold a job without a good night’s sleep?” Kinser said. “We’re trying to do this for the city of Durango. They need to have a legal, city-sanctioned safe place to sleep. Our goal is to help them achieve that.”