Denver is serious about reducing homelessness in the city. It has flexed its muscle in recent years pumping millions into housing and shelter options. The year 2022 is no different.
Denver’s department of Housing Stability, or HOST, will enjoy a $270 million budget for 2022. Its priorities will include finding solutions to the illegal homeless encampments that line the city’s sidewalks.
HOST already has a reputation for precision and thoroughness in its presentations to city officials. Its well-written documents outline goals, present data and celebrate successes. Most supply a blueprint for the future and the goal of ending homelessness or reaching “Functional Zero.” That means the same number of people are being lifted out of homelessness as those entering it.
Encampments a top priority
“In 2022, HOST will focus primarily on addressing unsheltered homelessness,” according to the department’s recently produced 2022 homeless plan. “HOST will work to help residents regain housing through innovative efforts like the housing surge and development of by name lists through Denver’s participation in Built for Zero. While we work to scale housing solutions, we recognize the need for safe, temporary options.
“HOST will invest recovery funding into alternatives to congregate shelter, like shelter options in hotels and motels (i.e., non-congregate shelter), safe outdoor spaces, safe parking, and tiny homes and continue to support a housing-focused congregate shelter system. Through this work, HOST seeks to prevent enforcement actions related to encampments from being necessary.”
Serving homeless people through an equity lens
Another of HOST’s goals is to create a fairer system for addressing homelessness in the city.
“HOST approaches its work through an equity lens to dismantle systemic racism and create more equitable systems,” the 2022 plan states. “We know that those experiencing homelessness and housing instability disproportionately represent black, indigenous and people of color and historically marginalized communities. Addressing housing, shelter, and service needs of these populations helps address historic discrimination and supports the city’s equity goals.
“In this work, HOST leads with race explicitly but not exclusively and understands the importance of intersectionality. It is essential to acknowledge the barriers faced by other historically disenfranchised groups on the basis of age, sexuality or gender identity, disability, income level, and neighborhood. HOST works to tailor our approach to the nuances of these experiences.”
Improve, expand shelter options
While Denver has a larger stock of providers for people experiencing homelessness than many other cities its size, “We know that our systems are still lacking critical services for couples, people with nonbinary gender identities, people with disabling conditions, people with pets, and others,” according to the 2022 plan. “HOST is focused on resolving those barriers for populations that remain underserved using person-centered, trauma informed approaches.
“In 2020, of residents experiencing unsheltered homelessness, 17 percent were black, compared to only 9 percent of the Denver population overall; 9 percent were American Indian and Alaska Native, compared to 1 percent of the population overall; and 26 percent were Latino, which is slightly lower than their share of the overall population (30 percent).”
Transgender, addicted, mentally ill all at risk
“Transgender and gender non-conforming individuals are more likely to be unsheltered,” according to the report. “While overall 24 percent of residents experiencing homelessness in the 2020 Point In Time survey were unsheltered, 32 percent of transgender people and 50 percent of gender non-conforming people were unsheltered.
“Residents experiencing unsheltered homelessness report higher rates of mental health, substance use, and chronic health conditions. More than half of unsheltered residents reported each of these conditions, compared to between 29 percent and 37 percent for all residents experiencing homelessness in the 2020 Point-in-Time Count.”
Creating 1,400 homes in 2022
In 2022, HOST will “begin to invest the substantial recovery funding available for housing to support the development and preservation of additional affordable homes, supporting about 1,400 total homes, including 185 units of supportive housing,” according to the report. “The Five-Year Strategic Plan set an audacious goal to create and preserve 7,000 units by 2026. In 2022, HOST will support 1,400 total homes toward that goal.”
HOST also plans to offer programs that increase home ownership, reduce evictions, help people stay in their homes, and reduce foreclosures.
Improving help for families
The plan calls for HOST to “Better meet the needs of families experiencing homelessness by establishing clear, well-known access points that offer universal screening for rapid resolution and connection with safe temporary places to stay when needed.”
The plan outlines steps HOST will take to “support families in crisis by expanding capacity in congregate and non-congregate shelter options for families as well as other time-limited options such as transitional or bridge housing alongside additional case management support.”
Revenue HOST will receive in 2022 includes money from the city’s general fund, the voter-approved Affordable Housing Fund, the voter-approved Homelessness Resolution Fund, federal grants, and recovery related resources.