Thompson School District officials presented a plan for a new youth shelter to the Thompson Board of Education at its meeting Wednesday night.
The shelter, which would include partners such as Larimer County, Mathews House and Colorado State University, would serve homeless youth in the district, who currently have to travel all the way to Boulder to find shelter for the night, or are forced to find alternative accommodation.
According to district staff, 838 Thompson students experienced housing instability in the past school year, defined as those living in shelters, cars, motels, campgrounds, RVs or with limbs. of the family.
Conversations between Thompson School District and Larimer County staff members resulted in a verbal agreement that the county will provide $1.5 million to help pay for the operation of a future shelter. The school district is scheduled to appear before the County Board of Commissioners on Nov. 8 to further discuss the possibility.
Additional funding for a potential shelter would come from an American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) grant that district officials are confident will be awarded, operations manager Todd Piccone said during the presentation.
A community needs assessment created by a Colorado State University professor will be distributed throughout the community over the fall and winter and will seek to identify the needs of the students in question.
“The goal of (the assessment) is to have more data, so we know what kind of services, staff, how we can help,” Piccone said. “Assuming we get the funds from ARPA, the installation and operations will meet the real needs of the community.”
Rating questions include the likelihood of needing shelter for the night, needing clothing or toiletries, mental health services, or help finding food or employment , and whether students would need transportation to the shelter. The survey also includes general demographic information.
The facility would likely be located at the Monroe Early Years Center, near the location of Monroe Elementary School, which the district says will be sold next year.
Capacity in other schools that is not currently being used, including schools that are being renovated to increase capacity, will be able to accommodate these early years students, Piccone said.
Renovations to the facility would total approximately $2.8 million, the amount of the ARPA grant, and Larimer County’s contribution would be to help fund operations, which will be managed by Matthews House, an organization in Fort Collins-based child and family services nonprofit. .
Kim Akeley-Charron, executive director of the Thompson Education Foundation, which has a long-standing resilience fund to help homeless young people, said the foundation was also involved in the planning. She said that in addition to the obvious difficulties that housing insecurity presents to students, it also hurts their academic work.
“If they aren’t well fed, if they don’t have the clothes they need, if they don’t have shelter and healthy food, they’re going to have trouble in school,” she said. “If we got to a point where we could make that a reality, it would make all the difference to our students.”