Tents and debris, Liberty Park

Debris and belongings line the street on jan. 15, 2020, at Denver's Liberty Park near the state Capitol after a weeklong homeless encampment, while the city's urban camping ban is in legal limbo.

The number of people experiencing homelessness in the Denver metro area continues to rise.

At least 6,104 people were experiencing homelessness between dusk on Jan. 27 to dusk on Jan. 28 in the seven counties surveyed in the 2020 Point-in-Time census, a one-day count across the nation of people experiencing homelessness. The data reflects a 6% increase since 2019 and a nearly 15% rise from two years ago.                   

“These data demonstrate homelessness was a crisis before COVID,” said Matt Meyer, executive director at the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative, which coordinates the PIT each year and reports the data to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“With eviction moratoriums and other protective measures ending, we fully expect to see dramatic increases as a result of the economic impact of the pandemic,” he said. “Reinstating these moratoriums on a local or state level would significantly decrease the impact for those households on the edge that now face homelessness.”

Denver represents the largest share of homelessness compared to neighboring counties surveyed in the region — Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Douglas and Jefferson — with a count of at least 4,171.

Of the more than 6,000 people living unhoused in the entire metro area, 51% were living in shelters within the region. A quarter of those surveyed said they were staying outdoors.  

Of the populations identified, 759 people were actively fleeing domestic violence, 627 were veterans, 278 were unaccompanied youth and there were at least 420 families.

The survey also examined race and found that minority populations are disproportionately affected by homelessness. African Americans made up more than 20% of people experiencing homelessness, but they represent less than 10% of the general population. Indigenous populations make up about 2% of the general population but comprise about 5% of those unhoused.

“The overrepresentation of people of color, specifically (B)lack and Native Americans, among those experiencing homelessness is critical to the response,” Meyer said in a statement. “Homelessness is an issue of race and must be approached through this lens.”

Hundreds of volunteers and partner agencies work together to complete the count every year.

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