Metro Denver Homeless Initiative has collected a new point-in-time count of homeless people in Jefferson County, and has reported that there were 611 individuals as of the count, which took place on January 27, 2014. They also say that an additional 285 people are at-risk and currently living on the very edge of homelessness.
While the number is sobering, it represents a drop from last year. The total number of individuals this year that are or are nearly homeless is 896, compared to 1,356 the previous year. Rebecca Meyer, the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative’s program coordinator, says that the significant drop in overall count does not necessarily mean there was an improvement. “We also had inclement weather on the day we counted, which made getting a good count more difficult,” she explained.
In order to get an idea of how many homeless people were currently living in the local area, volunteers journeyed to homeless service centers, churches, parks, libraries motels, food banks and more over the course of the day in order to talk to people and find out how many people were homeless, and what type of services they were in need of. The number is ultimately approximate — volunteers were able to contact a total of 234 people, who indicated the number of homeless family members they had, which brought the count to 611.
The majority of respondents — 64% — reported that they stayed in temporary housing, such as a motel or couch surfing. About 10% of those surveyed were sleeping outside, and another 19% were either in youth, emergency, or domestic violence shelters.
An important finding in the survey was that the number of homeless mothers and children was up from the year before. “The second largest [demographic] is couples with children, so this tells us we’re dealing with children and what we have to be aware of on the programming side,” explains Mag Strittmatter, the executive director of the Lakewood Action Center. The survey findings can help organizations that provide local services figure out how to best allocate funding.
For individuals interested in helping out the homeless, donations of time, money, or used clothing are always appreciated. Most centers that deal with homeless populations accept volunteers, and when people donate used clothing to thrift stores it gives homeless people affordable clothing options, with proceeds going toward future services.