Longmont nonprofit HOPE wants to reach the city’s homeless no matter if they stop in or are out on the streets.
“We are engaging wherever we can find people who are experiencing homelessness,” said Alice Sueltenfuss, executive director of Homeless Outreach Providing Encouragement, 804 S. Lincoln St. “The thing that HOPE does well is they work with people where they’re at.”
HOPE For Longmont was founded in 2007 following the deaths of two homeless individuals during a harsh winter storm. It started as a meeting place for volunteers to collect donated clothing and food made by volunteer Soup Angels and deliver to the homeless they encountered while driving outreach vans.
In 2018, HOPE opened the Navigation Shelter through a partnership with the City of Longmont and by joining forces with Homeless Solutions for Boulder County to be able to provide a
“It is crucial that people are brought out of the cold and are fed. It is the right thing to do,” Sueltenfuss said. “Yes, my staff experiences compassion fatigue, but though the work is difficult and the pay is lousy, they get a reward that sometimes goes unnoticed. Where can you go to experience unabashed sincerity and kindness (and) have someone who has absolutely nothing say, ‘Thank you so much!’ or ‘Can I help you with that?’”
The Navigation Shelter, hosted in two Longmont churches, offers a hot meal and a place to sleep, as well as a network of services that lead to successful housing in the form of housing vouchers for apartments since rentals are expensive. The services include client advocacy, showers, laundry, storage, medical and dental referrals and assistance with getting employment and locating vital documents.
To receive the services, clients are required to fill out a 20-minute assessment of their needs and the best services to meet those needs during a process called Coordinated Entry.
Those not on the shelter list can stop in during extreme weather (overnight, 25 degrees or below, and during the day, 15 degrees or below) at what’s termed the Emergency Shelter. The shelter is housed in the same two churches as the Navigation Shelter, Messiah Lutheran Church from Thursday to Saturday and Journey from Sunday to Wednesday. Visitors can get a hot meal, a shower, internet access and a place to sleep, as well as learn about their housing options and how they can qualify.
That’s because HOPE’s mission is about “Changing the Narrative of Homelessness” with a vision that every person in the Longmont area is valued and lives with dignity and freedom.
“Changing the narrative on homelessness means for HOPE that homeless for all and for at least right now is nonexistent,” Sueltenfuss said. “We go out on Street Outreach every day with the intent to build trust that leads to housing and that leads to a meaningful life for each of those we house.”
The Outreach Center also attracts those who aren’t housed or are newly homeless, a few learning through word of mouth that if they take the RTD 323 bus there, they will find hope. That hope comes in the form of sack meals, clothing, health referrals and housing assistance.
The meals served through Street Outreach and the Outreach Center are made by 250 Soup Angels – the food comes from monetary donation purchases and day-old food from the Food Rescue US in Longmont.
There’s hope in HOPE’s statistics. By Dec. 31, HOPE expects to record more than 36,800 interactions in 2023 with the homeless needing some kind of assistance. An average of 49 people stay at the shelter each day and another 10 to nearly 20 come in during extreme weather. HOPE also helped 74 people get into housing so far this year.
“That is 74 people who now pay rent, buy groceries, avoid frequent hospital visits and live their lives as they dreamed they would,” Sueltenfuss said. “We hope to relieve the stress on the city, the police and the hospitals.”
For more information or to support Hope for Longmont, visit hopeforlongmont.org or call 720.494.4673.
By Shelley Widhalm, Longmont Magazine