Walter Roberts hasn’t had a place to call his own in quite some time.
He can’t really remember how long it’s been except that it “was a long time ago.”
Roberts, 65, moved into Mason Place a couple of weeks ago. Here in the heart of Midtown Fort Collins, he has his own bedroom and bathroom, a kitchen and living room.
“I’ve wanted my own place; this is what I’ve been wanting,” he said. “It is sweet.”
Roberts is one of 60 people moving into Mason Place, 3750 S. Mason St., Housing Catalyst’s newest permanent supportive housing development.
Ending homelessness:As Homeward 2020 ends, here’s what its director says needs to happen
Mason Place, which opened in January, provides subsidized apartments for people with disabilities who had been experiencing homelessness and who earn 30% of the city’s area median income, or less than $20,000 per year. Fifteen apartments are reserved for veterans.
Permanent supportive housing is often touted as one of the most effective paths out of homelessness. It provides residents housing first and then addresses their underlying causes of homelessness.
The three-story building has 60 furnished apartments, community rooms, laundry rooms, and offices for staff and services. It is close to the MAX bus line and the Safeway shopping center at Horsetooth Road and College Avenue.
Most of the current residents are between 55 and 70 years old, said Kim Iwanski, spokeswoman for Housing Catalyst, which develops and builds affordable and supportive housing in Fort Collins.
Walter is a retired railroad worker who moved in after living on the streets and in various shelters for years.
“I was shocked when I got here. I can’t believe it,” he said. ” Everyone is so nice and I can’t believe I have a place to live and I don’t have to be on the streets. But I feel sorry for the other people that are still there. I really feel for them.”
As of last week, a dozen tenants had moved in. The rest will be in by June, Iwanski said. Tenants are referred through a coalition of agencies working with people experiencing homelessness and can stay as long as they continue to pay their rent and comply with their leases.
Residents pay 30% of their income, including Social Security, disability or other benefit programs.
Homeward Alliance, which runs the Sister Mary Alice Murphy Center for Hope, is providing case managers on site 24/7 to help residents build independent living skills and connect with other community services including health care.
Mason Place replaces the former Midtown Arts Center purchased by Housing Catalyst in 2018 for about $2.9 million. Construction began a year later.
David Rout, executive director of Homeward Alliance, said, “When it comes to our community’s ongoing effort to make homelessness rare, short-lived and non-recurring, developments like Mason Place are the gold standard. It will immediately provide dozens of our most vulnerable neighbors with a safe place to live and the supportive services they need to stay housed, healthy and happy.”
This is Housing Catalyst’s second permanent supportive housing project. Redtail Ponds on South College Avenue opened in 2015. Of the 93 residents who first moved into Redtail Ponds, a dozen are working and 97% are still in stable housing, said Kristin Fritz, director of real estate development for Housing Catalyst.
The Mason Street building was constructed in 1982 as the Mann Four Cinema, which closed in 1999. It was used by the Lithia car dealership to store tires and equipment until 2010, when Kurt Terrio moved his Carousel Dinner Theatre into the space and changed its name. In addition to the theater, it featured a 200-seat banquet/convention ballroom often rented by community groups.
Housing Catalyst had hoped to pop the top off the Midtown Arts Center building but keep the foundation and exterior walls. After extensive study, it became clear the walls would not withstand the addition of windows and thermal insulation while supporting a new third story, Fritz wrote in a 2019 memo to City Council explaining the change.
The project did retain the original footprint of Midtown Arts Center.
Pat Ferrier is a senior reporter covering business, health care and growth issues in Northern Colorado. Contact her at email@example.com. Please support her work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a subscription today.