Robert Bosch spends around four days a week at Mean Street Ministry in Lakewood — a place that offers services to the homeless like clothing, a food bank, a café and its severe weather shelter. He …
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Robert Bosch spends around four days a week at Mean Street Ministry in Lakewood — a place that offers services to the homeless like clothing, a food bank, a café and its severe weather shelter.
He doesn’t spend the majority of his weeks at Mean Street Ministry just to get services — even though he has spent the past eight years without a home after bouncing around and staying at different motels. Bosch goes to Mean Street Ministry to volunteer at its café where he prepares food for those who are homeless.
“I don’t work very much. I would rather volunteer here,” said Bosch who is currently doing some landscaping work but struggles with blue collar work because of health conditions.
“I can’t afford (housing). But I’m just trying to make ends meet,” said Bosch.
On Jan. 27 and Jan. 28, organizations throughout Colorado set out to count people like Bosch who are homeless as part of the annual point-in-time survey — a count of how many people are living on the streets or are in shelters during one point in time of the year. And after months of sorting through data from the count, results are in.
The count found 444 people in Jefferson County experiencing homelessness. In 2019, there were 434 people counted as being homeless in the point-in-time survey.
“To me, it means two things,” said Nikki Reising, lead case manager for Family Tree’s homelessness services. Family Tree is a nonprofit organization that provides services to those who have suffered from child abuse, domestic violence and homelessness.
“One is that probably not too much has changed in the amount of people that are homeless in Jeffco from 2019 to 2020. But I think it also means that we need more help with (the point-in-time survey),” said Reising, who participated in this year’s count along West Colfax. “The number of 444 definitely does not (show) how many (homeless) people are in Jeffco. We could’ve used more volunteers, and I think if we had more, we would’ve seen a higher number. A higher number isn’t good or bad — but it represents the county better and represents the kind of funding that we think we need.”
Data from the point-in-time survey is used in Jefferson County for planning purposes, according to Kelli Barker, regional homeless coordinator for Jefferson County. The county is currently revising its Jeffco Homelessness Action Plan — a 2013 22-page document that aims to increase access to stable and affordable housing, increase economic security, retool the homeless crisis response and more.
“What I gain from (the point-in-time survey), and what I like about it is the methodology stays the same from year to year. We can get some meaning from the trend, even though we know the number isn’t accurate,” said Barker.
The US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s model unsheltered count form requires point-in-time surveyors to ask homeless people where they are sleeping, how old they are, their race, age and more.
Barker said the county also uses data from its comprehensive homeless count — a month-long count of individuals experiencing homelessness. The count considers an individual homeless when they are living in an emergency shelter, transitional housing, are unsheltered or lack stable housing. The 2019 comprehensive homeless count found that there were 997 people experiencing homelessness in Jefferson County in August of 2019.
The Metro Denver Homeless Initiative, an organization that advocates to end homelessness, trains those who conduct the point-in-time survey. Jamie Rife, director of communications and development for the organization, said the point-in-time data helps to determine how well the Denver metro area is doing to end homelessness.
Outside of Jefferson County, surveyors scattered throughout Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver and Douglas counties counting homeless people. Overall, 6,104 people in the counties were experiencing homelessness on Jan. 27 and Jan. 28 — a 6% increase from last year.
Stephanie Thanner, program services manager for the human-services nonprofit Action Center, said since March 24 the organization has distributed $298,022.34 to 152 households for rental assistance. Thanner added that the Action Center has had over 1,135 households reach out to the organization for help with rent and mortgage since the end of March.
The Arvada-based food assistance charity Community Table reported in May that 3-40% of people coming in for food assistance since the March shut-dows were “new faces.”
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Rife said the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative has seen a 300% increase in the number of requests for its homelessness prevention resources as the state announced on July 23 that since mid-March, a total of 502,057 regular unemployment claims have been filed.
“I think that’s an indicator of what is going to come. And I think we’re all bracing for what that looks like and planning strategically to make sure we’re keeping people housed and making sure the resources that we have flowing in are helping people who don’t have housing,” said Rife.
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