Denver, CO

Deaths among Denver’s homeless on the rise

Margaret Jackson

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By Margaret Jackson / NewsBreak Denver

(Denver, Colo.) At least 269 people experiencing homelessness died in metro Denver in 2021, according to a report from the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.

However, the coalition believes that the number is low because it’s the third consecutive year that the number could not be cross-referenced with the Denver Medical Examiner’s Office, which reported 168 deaths among people experiencing homelessness between Nov. 1, 2020, and Oct. 31, 2021 — up 12%from 2020 and 83% over the last five years.

The number includes 17 cases that are still pending investigation and 12 deaths resulting from COVID-19.

Programs offered through the coalition to help the homeless include Housing First and Permanent Supportive Housing efforts such as Denver’s Social Impact Bond project.

The report, We Will Remember: Homeless Death Review, found that nearly 400 of the most frequent visitors to emergency rooms, jails and detox were housed using Housing First and Permanent Supportive Housing efforts over the last five years. Eighty-six percent of residents in these programs remained housed after one year, and there was a substantial decrease in police contacts, use of detox services and emergency department visits.

Other efforts to improve the lives of people experiencing homelessness include expanding the acquisition and conversion of underused properties for housing. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the coalition, in partnership with the City and County of Denver and support from the state, was able to house about 5,000 people at hotels and motels.

The coalition also supports the continued use of federal funds like those provided in the American Rescue Plan Act for the conversion of properties like motels to temporarily and permanently house households experiencing homelessness and is optimistic that the Colorado General Assembly’s interim Affordable Housing Transformational Task Force will include motel conversions in their recommendations during the 2022 legislative session that begins Jan. 12.

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