Tackling Youth Homelessness in Durango

homeless-youth December 2022

Youth homelessness in Durango has increased dramatically within the last year. We spoke with Diana Ford from the La Plata County Collaborative Management Program (CMP) to find out why this is the case and what is currently being done about it.

Ford leads the CMP for La Plata County, which is a state-legislated program across Colorado that helps coordinate social services for families with complex needs. LPYS provides administrative support for this program but also has a seat on the board as a local youth agency.

"Originally, there were just temporary, short-term fixes that were happening to address homelessness for families in La Plata County until CMP and our partners, Manna Soup Kitchen and Housing Solutions for the Southwest and many more community organizations pushed to elevate this issue," said Ford.

Youth homelessness is a recently emerging issue and it seems to be related to a perfect storm in La Plata County. The factors that contributed to this issue include the closure of the Purple Cliffs Homeless Camp this past October and lingering impacts of housing prices and the state of the economy brought about by COVID-19.

"Before this past year, we would see maybe 1 or 2 families that were homeless on our caseload. Now we have close to 18 homeless families. People also think that these families are transient but they actually are families that have been here for a long time who are suddenly finding themselves homeless because they haven't been able to recover financially for a variety of reasons," said Ford.

Since this issue was elevated within the county, providers and community partners have been working together with the county's Coordinating Council on Homelessness (CCH). Community partners have engaged in collaborative fundraising, creative ways to leverage resources, and putting systems in place. One of the systems they have put in place is agreements with local motels/hotels to temporarily shelter families. Another good move by the city and county will be to adopt the Continuum of Care Model which is a system developed and managed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. It requires a certain level of cooperation and innovation among federal, state, and local governments for long-term solutions to homelessness.

"It feels like we are finally getting some traction on this issue and we hope to actually have real solutions to offer the families we are working with," said Ford.

Families do need to meet certain program requirements to receive housing support. We could all agree that having permanent, affordable housing gives families the stability and foundation they need to make a meaningful connection with their community. At LPYS, we want all youth to find that connection with their community and thrive. We applaud the city, county, and community partners for taking this critical step.