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News brief with The Coloradoan: Foothills Mall plans and police co-responders focus on the unhoused

Four people stand on a sidewalk with backpacks on the ground and a parking lot behind them
Lucas Boland
The Coloradoan
Outreach Fort Collins' Wes Wicklund, left, and Lisa Dunworth, a behavioral health clinician at Summitstone, visit a couple in downtown Fort Collins on March 29, 2023. A large part of the non-profit's mission involves walking streets, paths and trails to meet and engage with people experiencing homelessness.

We occasionally catch up with our colleagues at The Fort Collins Coloradoan about the stories they're following. This time, Executive Editor Eric Larsen joins us to discuss plans for the Foothills Mall as well as changes to how police in Fort Collins handle emergency dispatch calls related to homelessness.

Fort Collins has been abuzz over plans to redevelop the Foothills Mall. Loveland-based developer McWhinney bought the property after its former owners defaulted on a loan payment. McWhinney owns some of the redeveloped housing around the mall as well. The company recently announced some $300 million in planned renovations to the shopping center.

Larsen told KUNC the proposed remodel would ”raze the interior shopping mall that people have come to know over the years and make it more of a ‘live/work/play’ outdoor-focused space.”

In another story, the Fort Collins Police Department and the nonprofit Outreach Fort Collins are making significant changes to how they handle emergency dispatch calls related to homelessness.

In recent years, Fort Collins police have “really grappled with how to address issues of homelessness,” Larsen said. “If the first interaction that you have with an officer is you getting arrested, it's probably going to be a negative one.”

Co-responder models have been taking root across the Front Range to handle non-emergency, non-criminal concerns. Those programs triage calls to non-police responders like mental health professionals when possible. The goal is to help connect people in crisis to more appropriate help while saving officers for situations where they're most needed. In Fort Collins, police are routing calls involving unhoused residents directly to Outreach Fort Collins, which specializes in outreach and aid to homeless individuals.

As a reporter and host for KUNC, I follow the local stories of the day while also guiding KUNC listeners through NPR's wider-scope coverage. It's an honor and a privilege to help our audience start their day informed and entertained.
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