La Plata County’s Board of County Commissioners, as well as the La Plata County Sheriff, stand behind our ongoing efforts to find workable solutions to mitigate the homeless crisis in Durango and in the unincorporated areas of the County. We continue to work toward solutions that will make homelessness rare, brief and a one-time occurrence. We will remain at the table in any present or future discussions with the City of Durango, nonprofit organizations, and other partners and community members.
As outlined in the 2020 Durango-La Plata County Strategic Plan on Homelessness, which was funded by and approved by Durango City Council and the La Plata County Commissioners at that time, the impact of homelessness on the wider population is felt every day and it has only become more severe in the ensuing years. The illegal and unmanaged camp previously known as Purple Cliffs was closed on Friday, September 30, 2022. The County hired a contractor to clean up the waste left behind by the campers at Purple Cliffs, and the clean-up was completed in late summer 2023. Every effort was made to help people who were at the camp to find housing and services and there was success in relocating seven families, including 20 children, to supportive situations and housing, and this is an ongoing task.
Upon the closure of the Purple Cliffs camp, the County has continued to play a role by working with the nonprofit Community Investment Alliance, a group working to put in place a 20+ unit bridge housing facility that will serve families, people who are elderly or disabled, as well as those willing and able to work. The program would offer wrap-around, on-site services like case management, mental health support and the like. This is an ongoing endeavor and any questions should be directed to the County Manager.
Other actions La Plata County is taking to address this multi-faceted problem include:
- earmark $1,000,000 of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to implement a bridge housing solution and also committing ARPA funds for social, mental health, and emergency response services to the needs of the unhoused, especially affected youth and families
- support use of the Joint Sales Tax for funding Manna's Navigation Center
- provide funding assistance for the costs associated with a winter warming center in Durango
- funding the cleanup of homeless camps in the interest of community safety and sanitation
- working with the regional SouthWEST Opioid Response District (SWORD) to find shared solutions for increased substance abuse disorder services
- help connect the unhoused to public benefits and services, including those offered through the La Plata County Department of Human Services and in the future (2024), through the newly created La Plata County Public Health Department.