So Colorado is counting their homeless population, and the outlook doesn’t really look so great for the state.
According to the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative, there are about 11,061 homeless people in the metro Denver region. That number is about 4 percent higher than the last official count in 2007, but homeless advocates think that the survey results are already out of date since their January 2009 count. John Parvensky, director of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, suggests that the real number could be up to 20 percent higher than the 2007 count.
The Alliance had long anticipated that the number of people experiencing homelessness would rise in these economic times, especially if there were no national or other concerted actions to try to remedy the effects of the recession on the very poor and the homeless (who, as we know, are often the hardest hit by economy tumult). Luckily since then, the President has since then created the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing program (HPRP) as a part of the stimulus and we are, in fact, seeing evidence of rising homelessness and more people in need of basic services.
Here are a couple of highlights about the news from Colorado.
The Denver Post reports that almost approximately 45 percent of those recently counted were newly homeless.
34.7 percent of those counted attribute their homelessness primarily to job loss; 31.2 percent counted attribute their homelessness to the inability to pay for housing.
The Denver count also suggest that while white and Latino populations were appropriately represented in the homeless populations, African Americans and Native Americans were overrepresented in the homeless population.
This growth in homelessness in particularly troubling considering the state’s significant economic difficulties. Denver’s one health clinic serving homeless people lost about a third of it’s funding, resulting in a first-ever waiting list for homeless people seeking health care, according to the Associated Press.
(This has caused a bit of an skirmish in the homeless advocate community. Ted Pascoe, executive director of Senior Support Services – a nonprofit serving homeless seniors – announced that he would sleep on the streets to protest his organizations funding cut by the Denver Regional Council of Governments.)
Unfortunately, the story we’re seeing unfld in Denver is not an anomaly. As direct service providers, consumers, local officials, and community leaders can all attest, state budget cuts, the effects of the recession, unemployment, and a host of other hardships are falling upon states and people equally. There’s little doubt that many other states are feeling the same pressures as Denver, Colo.
For more information, please see:
Homeless in Denver, by choice, Denver Post.
Homeless in Colorado metro area up to 11,061, Denver Post.
Advocates: Slow economy fueling Colo. homelessness, Associated Press.