Colorado homelessness bills would bring more funding, resources |

Colorado homelessness bills would bring more funding, resources

Legislation aims to support local governments, nonprofits in their efforts to help people in those situations

Libby Stanford
Summit Daily News
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis speaks during a press conference earlier this month about behavior health legislation moving through the legislative process at the state Capitol. Polis announced Monday new bills that aim to address homelessness.
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News

Several bills introduced to Colorado’s House of Representatives and Senate on Monday would bring more local funds to address homelessness around the state if they are passed.

The four bills were introduced Monday after a news conference with Colorado Gov. Jared Polis. At the conference, Polis said the bills address the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Vulnerable individuals and families who are on the brink have been more likely to fall into homelessness, and it has become even harder for people who are already experiencing homelessness to access the services that they need to break the cycle,” Polis said.

The new bills aim to support local governments and nonprofits in their efforts to help people in those situations.

The bill that is most likely to enact local change is House Bill 1377, which would establish a grant for local governments and nonprofits to spend on homelessness resources, said State Rep. Julie McCluskie, D-Dillon, who represents District 61, including Pitkin County.

If passed, the state would allocate $105 million from its federal COVID-19 recovery funds to the grant program, which would support a wide array of homelessness services.

Local governments and nonprofits would be able to use the funds to support programs that convert existing properties into transitional housing with wraparound services. They could also invest the money into data collection, fund housing development projects, build homeless shelters and connect homeless people to services throughout the state.

Another bill, H.B. 1083, would expand an income tax credit program that supports homelessness projects. The goal of the program is to incentivize support for homelessness services, especially in underserved rural areas.

The bill would also expand the tax credit program so that people could receive credits for donating to nonprofits that provide homelessness services.

The other bills would provide targeted efforts to improve housing in the Denver area, but that doesn’t mean they’re not relevant to mountain communities, McCluskie said.

H.B. 1378 and S.B. 211 would both establish government-funded homeless centers in the Denver area. The bill in the House of Representatives would make the state create a grant program for a local government in the Denver metropolitan area to build a regional navigation campus dedicated to the prevention of homelessness.

The state would set aside $50 million to build the campus, which would provide mental health, transitional housing, permanent housing, emergency shelter, addiction recovery and case management services.

The bill in the Senate would transition the Ridge View Youth Services Center in Watkins into the Ridge View Supportive Residential Community, which would provide housing, behavioral health treatment, medical care, job training and skill development for residents.

McCluskie said the two Denver-based programs may free up state funds that could be diverted to support initiatives around the state.

“Not only do we learn from some of those investments and improvements in the state, but it can also take pressure off that limited pool of resources,” she said.

The homelessness bills have only been introduced into the House and Senate and would need approval from both governing bodies before receiving a final signoff from Polis.

McCluskie said the bills, as well as other efforts to improve housing, have received largely bipartisan support.

“In a time when so many political issues become divisive, I think it’s been really powerful to see Republicans and Democrats come together and work on these problems,” she said.