The Colorado Catholic Conference supports HB22-1377, Grant Program Providing Responses To Homelessness, which creates the $105 million connecting Coloradans experiencing homelessness with services, treatment, and housing supports grant program. This grant program will help Colorado communities address homelessness by empowering local governments and nonprofit organizations to make investments and improvements to respond to the needs of people experiencing homelessness in their community. The rising tide of homelessness in Colorado is our collective responsibility and this legislation is a good start to what should be a statewide collaborative effort to address this crisis.

Unfortunately, the upward trend of homelessness in our state has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Between 2020 and 2021, Colorado had the third largest absolute increase in sheltered homelessness in the nation with an increase of 1,045 or fifteen percent. Since 2007, the state has seen a staggering 266 percent increase, the largest in the nation.

HB 1377 is a substantial and necessary investment to address the homelessness crisis in our state. It is incumbent on all stakeholders – the state government, counties, municipalities, nonprofit organizations, churches and citizens – to respond to this challenging moment and work to reverse this troubling trend. This bill is an encouraging start to ameliorating the situation in our state.

This legislation upholds the Catholic principle of subsidiary by providing local governments and nonprofits, who are best attuned to the struggle of individuals experiencing homelessness in their communities, the financial resources necessary to combat the issue. By taking an expansive view of the interventions that qualify for this grant program, local partners will be able to address homelessness in the way that best fits their needs. This may include street outreach programs, shelter, transitional housing, job counseling, case management services and poverty navigation services. These services not only uphold the dignity of people who are homeless or on the brink of becoming homeless – they also work to help them achieve economic stability.

In Colorado, many Catholic organizations, including Grand Valley Catholic Outreach in Grand Junction and Catholic Charities in all three dioceses provide direct service to those experiencing homelessness in our state. Our organizations collaborate with community partners to address this crisis. HB 1377 will help all entities who serve the homeless expand their capacity and assist those who are in most need.

Catholic social teaching teaches a preferential option to give to the poor in our communities. There is an obligation for each of us to uphold the dignity of the human person and to serve those who are poorest and most vulnerable – the marginalized in our communities. HB22-1377 addresses the need that we all recognize – to combat the homelessness crisis that has permeated our community and thereby work to promote human dignity and the common good in Colorado.