Unsheltered in Summit looks for new home for the unhoused in Frisco

Lars Shirey, 63, poses for a portrait in front of his truck, which serves as his residence, while parked at The Church at Agape Outpost in Breckenridge on Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. Shirey — who has dubbed his truck camper LOLA, for Life of Lars Adventures — is one of 10 individuals who has taken advantage of the Unsheltered in Summit program, which provides a safe place to park and sleep in a vehicle overnight.
Jason Connolly/For the Summit Daily News

Unsheltered in Summit is seeking a new location for its safe parking program after the Sheriff’s Office notified the group it would lose its location at the Summit County Justice Center on Sept. 30. The program gives folks temporarily living out of their cars a place to park and stay overnight.

Stakeholders with Unsheltered in Summit went to the Frisco Town Council and asked for its endorsement. The group proposed a few possible locations in the Frisco area it considered viable. The council voiced its support and said it would look into cementing a spot and making the necessary code changes.

The program could increase housing options for the local workforce, as Unsheltered in Summit requires its members to work in the county.

“If you can provide housing for the cost of a dumpster and an outhouse, that’s a pretty good deal,” Unsheltered in Summit stakeholder Tom Castrigno said.

Unsheltered in Summit wants space for 10 to 15 vehicles, according to a Frisco staff report. The area should also have level ground, low light, be relatively quiet and somewhat secluded, the report said. The parking area can have other uses during the day since the report said 24/7 access for members is desired, but not a necessity, and the area can have designated times for other uses.

The Justice Center lot the group has been using offers just 10 parking spaces. Janice Wagner with Unsheltered in Summit added the program also has a waitlist.

Unsheltered in Summit identified one of the paved lots along Recreation Way on the Frisco Peninsula as a new potential home for its members since they will need to vacate their current location in Breckenridge by Sept. 30 of this year.
Unsheltered in Summit/Courtesy image

Unsheltered in Summit identified two locations within Frisco capable of meeting those needs. The first are the paved lots near the Frisco Peninsula Recreation Area, and the second is the overnight lot at the west end of town adjacent to West Main Street and the Interstate 70 exit, according to the report.

The parking area at the west end of Frisco near Interstate 70 was identified by Unsheltered in Summit as a viable new location for its members.
Unsheltered in Summit/Courtesy image

It also identified three more locations near town. The Dickey Day Use Trailhead, the lower side of County Commons and the Giberson Bay Day Use Lot were all identified as potential locations in the staff report. The Dickey Day Use Trailhead would require designated usage times for Unsheltered members due to the parking area’s daily traffic, the report said. The lower side of County Commons would require the county’s approval for Unsheltered to use since it’s county land, and Giberson Bay parking area would similarly require U.S. Forest Service’s approval since its on Forest Service property.

Diane Luellen with Unsheltered in Summit said the group would ask for the town’s backing if the group moved toward a county or Forest Service parking area.

The group has looked all over the county for space, including reaching out to places of worship. “We’ve looked at nearly every church,” Luellen said. She said home owners associations next door have complained, several churches had insufficient parking and others wouldn’t respond.

In terms of local impact, the presenters emphasized their members’ small footprint.

“They were gone by 8 o’clock in the morning,” stakeholder Susan Knopf said, speaking of its members when their group harbored at Agape Church. Their members were “invisible” to summer campers at the church, she said, and the campers never knew the members were there. Wagner added no items are allowed outside the vehicles — no chairs or grills left out — and there are no noisy generators.

Unsheltered in Summit would also need a town code amendment to operate. According to Frisco’s Unified Development Code, “camping” is not allowed. Additionally, Frisco Town code also prohibits “any person to camp or stay overnight in any town park, open space property or recreation area, except in an area designated for such use.”

Unshletered in Summit has provided designated parking lots for its members since 2019 as part of its safe parking program. The program provides port-a-potties and trash collection for its members. The program began at the Agape Church north of Breckenridge, but moved to the Summit County Justice Center in Breckenridge in April 2022 due to construction at the church.

The program is losing its place at the Justice Center because the town needs room to plow, Wagner said.

The program requires members to go through an application process. Applicants must provide proof of employment and their driver’s license, insurance, and vehicle registration and identity, according to Unsheltered in Summit’s presentation. Applicants must also interview with an intake volunteer, in addition to signing a community agreement and a waiver and release of liability.

The council’s conversation briefly drifted beyond the original scope of Unsheltered in Summit, as councilor’s wondered what other shelter options could be provided.

“I have employees who don’t even have cars,” council member Elizabeth Skrzypczak-Adrian said, so they wouldn’t qualify for the program despite working in the county.

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