By Dillon Thomas

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4) – Consistently ranked among the top places to live in the nation, Fort Collins‘ population continued to grow into 2017.

However, soon after the June 2017 murder of resident Helena Hoffman, many in Fort Collins expressed their concern with the apparent growth of the homeless community, as well.

Hoffman was allegedly sexually assaulted and killed by Jeffery Etheridge, a new transient resident in Fort Collins.

According to Fort Collins Police Services (FCPS) records obtained by CBS4’s Dillon Thomas, the public may be justified in their concern. Police response to transient-related matters skyrocketed in 2017, following a steady pattern of increase.

Number of FCPS reports involving the word “Transient” between April 1, and June 13:

2014: 409

2015: 481

2016: 678

2017: 734

“We all have stories from around town, from seeing homeless and wondering what we can do. What we should do,” said Ginny Sawyer, spokesperson from the City of Fort Collins.

Sawyer said the city did intend to address the issue of homelessness. One way Fort Collins could address the issue, is through the new “What Works Cities” initiative. Fort Collins joined cities like Amarillo, TX and Memphis, TN with the initiative, which uses data to better understand livability of cities.

While the initiative could address many topics, listed below, homelessness is one topic of the data collection.

“We’ve really been trying to be more focused on data, and results,” Sawyer said. “To have real data, so we are directing our limited resources in the most impactful place, will benefit everyone.”

Sawyer said the city would use data from the “What Works Cities” initiative, and data from FCPS, to pinpoint causes and resolutions to the issue.

Some Fort Collins residents who are homeless said they noticed the increase in transients as well.

Mark Quatman, who has lived on the streets of Fort Collins for three years, said many homeless individuals are not a nuisance.

“I panhandle as a way of surviving. I don’t do anything illegal. I don’t sell drugs, I don’t rob,” Quatman said, noting that he was also applying for jobs.

Quatman said the issue started once “traveling transients” made their way to Fort Collins.

“They are the aggressive ones, that go up to people and ask people almost in a shakedown kind of fashion,” Quatman said.

Sawyer hoped, by partnering with Bloomberg Philanthropies’ “What Works Cities” initiative, residents could expect a greater living space in the future. Safety and security could also be a direct benefactor of the data collection.

In an announcement, the city said the initiative would “…best determine priorities, drive progress toward them, allocate resources, and tackle [Fort Collins’] toughest challenges – from homelessness to public safety and economic development. Cities are also fostering trust with their communities through greater transparency around city data in efforts to increase collaboration toward developing solutions.”

Fort Collins was expected to focus on “neighborhood livability and social health.”

“The more we can get that information out to the community, the more we can partner on continuing to make Fort Collins the kind of place everyone wants to be,” Sawyer said.

Dillon Thomas is a reporter at CBS4 and a Colorado native. He believes everyone has a story, and would love to share yours! You can find more of his stories by following him on Twitter, @DillonMThomas.


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