Denver, CO

Denver churns out homeless people faster than it helps them

David Heitz

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Two recent developments show just how bad the homelessness problem in Denver has become. Results from the annual Point in Time survey of people living in shelters showed the city has double the number of people experiencing homelessness for the first time.

Last year, the Point in Time survey was not conducted due to COVID-19. Meantime, as the dire news of a doubling in new homeless Denverites sinks in, the mayor announced the city will house 200 people experiencing homeless during the next 100 days.

“This housing surge – the first of many – will help us make an immediate impact on the lives of these unhoused residents by quickly moving to support their exit out of homelessness,” Mayor Hancock said in a news release. “We’re going to continue to deploy every tool available, with a goal of lifting thousands of people out of homelessness over the next two years, including those who are living on our streets in the most unsafe and unhealthy of conditions.”

Housing 200 people is significant. Yet it’s a drop in the bucket considering how many new people are landing on the streets. The discovery that the newly homeless population has doubled is cause for alarm. Many fear even more will be homeless now that the eviction moratoriums have ended.

Population of newly homeless doubles in Denver

“One of the most striking pieces of information is the number of people experiencing homelessness for the first time,” Dr. Matt Meyer of the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative said in a news release. “In 2020 there were 1,273 people in shelter that were experiencing homelessness for the first time. This year, that number doubled to 2,530 demonstrating the devastating effects of COVID-19 on the stability of our neighbors.”

Still, Denver city officials are optimistic. “We are grateful for the federal resources to help us quickly connect 200 people to housing as we work to recover from the pandemic,” said city Housing Stability Executive Director Britta Fisher in a news release. “Leveraging the incredible work already being done by our partners to resolve episodes of homelessness in our community, this surge will add additional resources and collaboration we can build on for the future.”

The mayor’s office in announcing the surge said more housing surges will be coming, but did not offer specifics. “A housing surge is a way to help quickly get people back into housing by expediting coordination of partners to connect people to a surplus in housing resources,” according to the news release. “Today, housing surges are being used across the country to help people back into housing after the COVID-19 pandemic caused many to lose their homes.”

Case managers already are engaging people in shelters and on the street about getting them into housing. In years past, people have waited on lists 10 years or longer for housing. Many unhoused people fall into poor health and even die after living that long on the streets.

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I have been in the news business more than 30 years, spending much of my career at some of the best newspapers in the country. Today, I specialize in Denver local news, health reporting, social justice issues, addiction/recovery/mental health news, and topics surrounding homelessness and human trafficking.

Denver, CO
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