The pandemic, now entering year three, has taken its toll in many visible ways. The number of people living without homes or shelter in Colorado is accelerating.
A recent nationwide study conducted by Security.org shows Colorado has the No. 11 highest rate of homelessness in America and saw a nearly 2% annual increase in its homeless population.
Denver has the No. 38 highest homeless rate among U.S. cities.
While some may see this as an urban challenge, surging poverty brought on by the disruption of COVID-19 has created a mounting crisis of hunger, homelessness, and other emergencies that destabilize families everywhere, including many mountain communities.
A growing concern
Living in extreme poverty and, in some cases, without proper IDs or a permanent address further strangles those with the greatest need from the resources that are in place and available to fight these issues.
The surge in homeless populations has overwhelmed many shelters, strained the entire network of services set up to help unsheltered populations, and created tension among small communities as temporary encampments sprout up in remote pockets.
The vicious cycle then puts some of society’s most vulnerable persons at odds with the residents of the communities they inhabit.
Fortunately, some Front Range communities are beginning to address this challenge from a multi-departmental approach that includes law enforcement, community service, public health, and housing services.
For example, Boulder County launched Homeless Solutions for Boulder County (HSBC) in October of 2017.
This approach is organized around the “Housing First” model, an approach to homelessness that prioritizes getting people housed over sobriety or workforce programs.
A Housing First community in North Boulder, Colorado, called Lee Hill, allows the city to rent all the units to people who have been chronically homeless.
The Housing First approach is gaining momentum on a national scale. It is considered the best model for addressing homelessness in the future.
“I would say that a lot of homelessness has more to do with luck than with choice,” said Lindell Ellingson, a resident coordinator for Boulder Housing Partners. “It turns out that when people aren’t living on the streets, getting exposed to more trauma every day, they can make big shifts in their lives. And as a community, you can save money.”
Community Advocacy Resources
Several community organizations are working on coordinated efforts to address and prioritize the challenges of homelessness in the area.
Peak to Peak Housing and Human Services Alliance
A group of human service organizations and agencies that meet once a month to share information and expand services to mountain residents. 303-578-8033
The Nederland Inter-agency Council for Homeless Encampments (NICHE) is a partnership guided by the Nederland Community Presbyterian Church and supported by several government offices, law enforcement agencies, human services organizations, and other groups affected by issues regarding homeless camping in the mountains.
Council Leader: Paula Gipp NCPC Mission Elder firstname.lastname@example.org 303-328-5863
Outreach Advocate Henry Schliff email@example.com 720-355-9490
Mountain Health Collaborative
The Mountain Health Collaborative is comprised of local health professional members who volunteer during disasters in the Peak to Peak Region to meet immediate health needs, with the overall community goals of increasing resilience and accelerating the post-disaster recovery rate. To join the Mountain Health Collaborative, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 303-258-7454 extension 2.
You can find a more comprehensive list of essential services on the Peak to Peak Housing and Human Services Alliance found here – https://www.p2phhs.org/where-to-get-help-guide-english.
Canyon Cares occasionally provides information such as above in an effort to be a resource beyond the emergency financial support we provide for area residents