Study finds fewer newly homeless in Denver, but more are families
posted by: Mile High Mamas
The number of newly homeless people has dropped significantly over the past two years in metro Denver, but an increasing number are adults with children, according to the 10th Homeless Point-in-Time Study, conducted on Jan. 24, 2011, by the Metropolitan Denver Homeless Initiative.
In 2011, the number of newly homeless — which means homeless for the first time and for less than one year — was nearly 24 percent, down from about 45 percent from 2009.
“Our theory is that in 2009 we got (stimulus money) from the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program, and we believe that had an impact,” said Linda Barringer, Homeless Initiative secretary.
“But clearly, homelessness is a major issue in our seven-county area. We counted over 11,000 people who are homeless. That’s a small city.”
In 2011, adults with children accounted for 62 percent of the homeless population, up from 21 percent in 2009.
“Most people see the homeless as individuals by the side of the road with signs,” said Adams County District Attorney Don Quick, who co-chairs the county’s commission to end homelessness within 10 years. “They don’t realize that a lot are families sleeping in cars, or out in the elements without cars.”
In Adams County, 85 percent of the homeless were adults with families. In the city and county of Broomfield, 75.5 percent were adults with families. In Jefferson County, 72.8 percent were adults with families.
Denver had the lowest percentage of homeless adults with children, about 51 percent.
“The root causes are lack of jobs that pay living wages and lack of affordable housing,” said Virginia Longoria, executive director of Access Housing in Commerce City, which helps homeless families.
One of their services is self-sufficiency education, which includes resume writing and one-on-one job-search training.
“We need financial support for our job-services program,” Longoria said. “The (Adams County) Work Force Center moved out to Brighton, which means people from our area need to catch three buses to get there. That’s really created a hardship for folks in need of a job, especially for those who lack transportation resources.”
The Adams County commission to end homelessness met for the first time in March and expects to create recommendations within 18 months.
In Jefferson County, there’s strong need for affordable housing.
Between the Jeffco Action Center and the Interfaith Hospitality Network of Greater Denver, there are about 20 shelter beds available for about 1,200 homeless people counted in the 2011 survey.
Barringer, program director at The Family Tree Homeless Services in Wheat Ridge, said that if families can find space in a shelter, they typically can stay only 30 to 90 days.
“Once that time is up, they may stay with relatives for a week, then go to a different shelter, then to a friend’s house, and maybe sleep in the car a couple nights,” she said. “They shuffle around to survive.”
In the 2011 study, about 42 percent of the homeless were in Denver, and about 58 percent were from the suburbs, where housing costs are high.
“Our very lowest income group, about 18,500 people, make $20,000 or less,” Barringer said. “They cannot afford to live here, but they do anyway, living beyond their means. If they miss a few days of work because a child is sick, they’re so at risk of becoming homeless.”
-Colleen O’Connor. Photo