Roaming on the Denver subway is not decreasing. But research from UC Denver and a private think tank offers ideas to help.


Homelessness is pervasive and expensive, and has worsened and become more complex in the Denver subway, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. But there is no one-size-fits-all solution to solving the crisis that affects more than 6,000 people in the seven-county metropolitan area, according to researchers who spent months interviewing former homeless people and executives. organizations that serve them.

Expensive housing, a shortage of paid staff in social services and mistrust of the system are among the factors that make the homelessness problem even more intractable, the researchers said.

A major recommendation from researchers studying homelessness in Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas and Jefferson counties is to add more affordable housing options.

The report cited the Denver Supportive Housing Social Impact Bonds Initiative, which provided housing and case management services to approximately 300 chronically homeless people, who were frequently involved in law enforcement, prisons, courts and other emergency services. When these people were offered accommodation and additional services, they stayed housed and interacted less frequently with expensive emergency services, according to an analysis published on the city’s website.

The report includes several other ideas that researchers at the Common Sense Institute and the University of Colorado at Denver have identified as successful in other communities and promising to be used locally.

“There are a variety of programs that do an effective job of meeting the different needs of people who are homeless,” said Kristin Strohm, CEO and President of the Common Sense Institute, a research organization dedicated to protecting and promoting homelessness. Colorado economy, which has partnered with CU Denver. to produce the report. “Our goal with this phase was to document what works, where there are opportunities, where there might be gaps and ultimately learn from them to resolve this crisis.”

The Common Sense Institute and CU Denver released a nearly 70-page report Monday morning, the second to emerge from their research. The first report, released in August, analyzed the economic impact of roaming on the Denver subway. Researchers have estimated that nearly $ 447 million a year is spent on shelters, support services, health care and other public aids for homeless people on the Denver subway.

The researchers are also urging community leaders to find additional ways to support providers, who are understaffed but provide essential support to people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Raising awareness of providers and their work can help achieve this goal. Encouraging former homeless people to become entrepreneurs, who provide peer-to-peer services into the system, can also help cope with the crisis, study officials said.

Distrust of the system can prevent some people from accessing the services they need. It is therefore also crucial to find new ways to build confidence in the system, the researchers said. Clarifying the eligibility requirements can help achieve this goal. The process for receiving services often involves many complex shapes and structures that make it difficult for the homeless to navigate, extending the time before those in need can get help. More auto-navigation tools could reduce the time spent during the process, the researchers said.

The report says it is essential to improve access to online or electronic information for homeless people who do not have reliable telephone and computer devices. Homeless people can often miss vital connections to information related to their health, employment, housing, transportation and financial needs, as they do not have consistent access to the internet, electricity, phones or computers. As a result, providers often struggle to provide services to their homeless clients, according to the report.

“The problem of homelessness in our communities is incredibly complex and difficult, and requires a clear understanding of ways to both prevent people from experiencing homelessness in the future and to provide faster ways to recover. roaming now, ”said Dan Griner, director of design, innovation and strategy for the University of Colorado Denver’s Inworks Innovation Initiative, a collaboration of leaders working to solve the problems most urgent of humanity, according to the organization’s website.

Denver’s population has grown 21% in the past decade and 1.6% in 2019 alone. Denver’s growth rate is higher than that of the state, which saw a 15% increase in population growth from 2010 to 2019, according to the report.

The number of homeless people in Denver increased by 25% from January 2017 to January 2020. While the number of homeless has likely increased over the past year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we do not don’t know by how much. Leaders in the metropolitan area typically count the number of homeless people just one night each year. But the annual one-time survey, or PIT tally, did not take place this year due to the pandemic.

The state has a housing deficit of more than 175,000 units since 2019, according to the report, and although Colorado is “a fairly progressive state” in implementing new initiatives, the housing shortage in Colorado means that it is ranked fourth among the worst in the country behind Washington, DC, Oregon and California.

An affordable housing developer interviewed in the report said zoning issues and the community’s setback had prevented him from pushing forward new projects in Colorado in seven years.

Likewise, an official from the Denver Department of Housing Stability said it costs more than $ 300,000 to develop a new affordable housing unit in the Denver metro area. With rising rental costs and a housing shortage, many voucher programs are unable to close the gap between current prices and what people can afford, according to the report.

The report says that a major precursor to homelessness is vulnerability – the possibility of being attacked or hurt emotionally or physically. Vulnerable people struggling with mental illness, family instability, substance use disorders, repeated experiences of incarceration or domestic violence, for example, are at greater risk of losing their housing and may need immediate hosting services. Many currently or formerly homeless people are considered vulnerable, and the perception of vulnerability is often seen as a risk factor by many landlords or rental agencies, who may be reluctant to rent to them because of this factor, according to The report.

A service provider included in the report called the roaming problem a “loss of community”.

“When homelessness is the result of the loss of community, then there is a need to find ways to welcome individuals into a new community,” the person said.

Although CU Denver and the Common Sense Institute have completed their research for this homelessness project, at least for now, leaders of both organizations have said they hope to continue working to find solutions.

“The providers of this space and many people who work in it every day – it’s common knowledge for them, as to how these things work,” Griner said.

“But the general public and the community – we all have a role to play in helping to alleviate this problem and to better understand it,” he said. “We hope that with education more people will be able to make informed decisions about policies and how they interact with this issue.”

To read the full report, visit:

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