Mar 052009
Authors: Emily Johnson

Until recently, the nearly 2,400 homeless who live in Fort Collins have needed to travel to and fro across the city in order to receive any services they hoped to attain.

This week, however, the Sister Mary Alice Murphy Center for Hope opened its doors to the needy while providing services other centers and shelters could not. As Project Manager Kim Iwanski called it has “one-stop shopping.”

“Our goal is to eliminate the need to go all over town for services,” Iwanski said. “. We have everything from AIDS testing to dental care to domestic violence counseling.”

The 10,000 square foot center, which sits at the corner of Blue Spruce Drive and Conifer Street, cost $2.5 million and will provide housing and employment resources, counseling, and showers and lockers to the homeless and those facing homelessness.

Also, the center provides various technical amenities to those who utilize the shelter.

There is also a computer lab for job searching. There are public phones and access to private voicemail boxes, which can be used for contact information on job applications.

“If you don’t have an address or phone number, you’re not going to get the job,” said Program Supervisor Zachary Penland.

But Penland warned that the center is not a shelter.

“. We do offer snacks, but there’s an expectation that when a client is here, they are accessing some sort of service, not just coming in from the cold,” Penland said.

Capacity for the center tops out at 200 people, which is just one fourth of the population of homeless children in Fort Collins.

“The homeless population is growing rapidly here,” Penland said. “Also at risk are those who are one paycheck away from homelessness. It’s much easier to prevent people from homelessness than to get them back into a home.”

The facility is named after Sister Mary Alice Murphy, a long-time advocate for the poor in Fort Collins. She opened the first soup kitchen and homeless shelter in Fort Collins, along with the first nonprofit affordable housing agency.

The center is staffed by workers at the Larimer Center for Mental Health in conjunction with other community service organizations.

Although the center is privately financed, day-to-day funding has not yet been arranged.

“We’re working with a skeleton crew at this point. The cooperation of other agencies is key,” Penland said.

Donations can be made through the United Way and volunteer applications can be picked up at the center, located at 242 Conifer Street.

Staff writer Emily Johnson can be reached at

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