Over the last 5 years, Ashley and Jordan have been together and together, they have struggled with addition and were homeless.They look back on that time with no regrets because they say they have learned who they want to be going forward. They are sober, employed, living in affordable housing and expecting their second child. The positive trajectory this family is on is possible, in part, to the support the couple received during their 9 month stay at Samaritan House Fort Collins which is run by the Larimer County arm of Catholic Charities of Denver.
“This is the best thing that’s ever happened in my life,” Ashley said. “Getting into the extended stay program was a blessing where we were held accountable for our sobriety which helped us with our daughter.”
When Ashley and Jordan first came to Samaritan House Fort Collins, their daughter Mayla was in foster care. She was taken away from them because of their addictions and that was the biggest wake up call of all. Once the couple showed they were committed to sobriety and living a stable lifestyle, they were granted full custody of her in March, right before Mayla’s 2nd birthday.
“Catholic Charities has definitely done a lot for us,” Jordan agreed. “The staff, they really care,” Ashley chimed in.
Samaritan House Fort Collins is the only shelter for women and families experiencing homelessness in Larimer County.
“In Fort Collins, a lot of people don’t think we need a shelter,” Vice President of Shelters for Catholic Charities said. “Rent is extremely expensive, especially in relation to the wages people earn. This shelter is serving a a great purpose in this community.”
In the Spring of 2021, the leaders at Samaritan House Fort Collins decides to shift the focus of the shelter to helping families and single women. Male veterans experiencing homelessness are welcome, but they stay in a separate section of the facility. Samaritan House Fort Collins is now a 24/7 operation. For decades, it was solely a night shelter. With that change, three hot meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner, are served each day.
“Twelve months ago, we were sheltering on average, on any given night, probably 40 individuals. Last night, we had 92,” Catholic Charities’ Interim Regional Director Joe Sarr told me one afternoon in April. “We’ve seen a 350% growth in families and roughly a 200% growth in total individuals.”
Sarr says no one is turned away and that the rooms within the shelter are being reorganized and repurposed into comfortable spaces to sleep. Lockers have been added so that guests can secure their belongings when they leave for work or school during the day. The shelter serves as a home for those as young as newborns to senior citizens.
“I tell folks that there’s nothing more important than welcoming people into this space and helping people feel whole and welcome,” Shelter Supervisor Katie Tiffany said. Tiffany has led a cultural shift at Samaritan House Fort Collins over the last year. Coming from the hospitality industry in Breckenridge, Tiffany has energized her staff to make sure they’re engaging, accommodating and encouraging shelter guests as they figure out their next steps.
“Ultimately, the long term objective is to get our guests into housing, and that is the goal that we have and that’s the one we focus on,” Vice President of Shelters of Catholic Charities Mike Sinnett said.
In May, Ashely, Jordan and Mayla moved into a place of their own.
“I think the most exciting thing for me having a home is that my daughter’s going to have a home,” Ashley said. “Together, all three of us.. I mean, and now four, we can do anything.”