Opinion: Fort Collins man has plan to help the 'invisible homeless'
Kevin Duggan, firstname.lastname@example.orgPublished 7:00 a.m. MT June 1, 2018
Buy Photo(Photo: Kevin Duggan\The Coloradoan)
CONNECTTWEETLINKEDINEMAILMOREPeter Tippett is taking on homelessness one home at a time.
Tippett, a former real estate agent, wants to help provide housing to people often described as the “invisible homeless.”
“These are people who live in Fort Collins and have jobs and cars and families and they are homeless — or on the verge of being homeless,” he said. “This is our target audience, as opposed to the chronic homeless.”
These are the couch-surfers, the people staying with family and friends for a few weeks at a time. They might earn too much income to qualify for government housing assistance but not enough to afford Fort Collins’ rising rents.
MORE: Poudre River cleanup canceled amid safety concerns about homeless camps
Tippett is executive director of Tilted Halo Services, a startup not-for-profit corporation with the mission of leasing houses and then subletting rooms to qualified individuals and families at a subsidized rate.
A bedroom that would fetch $800 a month on the open market might be rented to a Tilted Halo client for $600. The difference would be made up by the nonprofit from donations and grants.
A portion of a tenant’s monthly rent would go toward an ongoing security deposit that would be returned when the renter leaves on good terms. Getting evicted for cause means losing the deposit.
If a renter stays 18 months in a house, the deposit could be $1,800. The accruing funds ensure a renter keeps a house in good shape. It also gives a renter some “skin in the game” and savings when they are ready to move on toward self-sufficiency, Tippett said.
So far, the nonprofit has one house under lease and another in the works. Tippett has found property owners who are willing to participate in the program. His challenge is acquiring sustainable funding to support rent subsidies.
Tippett plans to seek grants from foundations and other funders. He also hopes to convince area Realtors to contribute to Tilted Halo, perhaps to the tune of $25 per closing.
MORE: Timnath Elementary School collecting supplies for homeless this week
Tilted Halo will cooperate with other service providers, but it doesn’t want to get bogged down in bureaucracy and red tape. And it doesn’t want to get too big.
“Our goal is to get 10 houses. That way, we’d be helping 30 to 40 people,” he said. “If we get there, we’ll take a hard look at whether we can do more.”
Potential tenants would be carefully vetted through credit checks to make sure they have enough income, either through employment or disability payments, to afford sliding scale rent. They also would be put through background checks.
A felony conviction would not necessarily eliminate a renter from consideration, Tippett said, but the program would not work with sex offenders or people convicted of domestic violence.
“I want to live within fair housing laws,” he said. “And yet I have to protect the landlords, the actual owners of the houses, and their neighborhoods.”
Tenants would be expected to perform community service as part of their rental agreements.
MORE: Project Homeless Connect puts homeless help under one roof in Fort Collins
Tippett, 69, has deep roots in Larimer County. He attended first grade in a one-room schoolhouse at Red Feather Lakes.
He worked in real estate in Fort Collins and the Red Feather Lakes area for many years, serving on various professional and civic boards and commissions.
On its website — tiltedhaloservices.org — the nonprofit is described as a “spiritual organization” that seeks to serve and empower marginalized people. It wants to assist with wellness as well as stable housing.
For Tippett, it’s a matter of giving back to the community as well as assisting others in finding a home here. And he wants to leave a legacy. He’s not sure how much time he has to build an organization that will outlast him.
Tippett was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer of plasma cells in bone marrow, in 2010. The disease currently is in forced remission, Tippett said, but it’s not clear how long his health will hold up.
“Let me put it to you this way: My ticket is paid for; I just don’t have my boarding pass,” he said. “When I go, I want to leave behind something that will continue.”
Kevin Duggan is a Coloradoan columnist. Follow him on Twitter, @coloradoan_dugg, and on Facebook at Coloradoan Kevin Duggan.