Denver homelessness: Annual count shows slight increase


Bucking a waning trend, Denver’s homeless population has slightly increased, including the chronically homeless, according a survey of those living in the metro area without a permanent address.

The Metro Denver Homeless Initiative (MDHI) has released the 2018 Point in Time (PIT) study, providing a “snapshot of the number and characteristics of people experiencing homelessness in Metro Denver,” Will Connelly, executive director of the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative, said in the report.

The count, conducted on Jan. 28 , tasked more than 300 volunteers and dozens of community leaders with interviewing people living on the streets or in shelters or vehicles.

According to the report, 5,317 were identified as homeless during this year’s PIT count, with two-thirds found in the City and County of Denver, compared to 5,116 in 2017. The count had waned since 2015 when 6,004 were identified.

The report further breaks down the 2018 total into categories like sheltered and unsheltered homelessness, which this year pointed to an increase of nearly 400 from last year, and a 58 percent increase since 2015.

The report does however point out, outreach to unsheltered locations was significantly expanded in 2018, likely contributing to the hike. Yet, the majority, 4,009, were identified as sheltered homeless in the 2018 count.

Another finding of this year’s count is that 1,596 people, or about 30 percent of the population counted, were chronically homeless. The study defined the chronically homeless as those that have been homeless for least 1 year or on four separate occasions in the last 3 years for a combined duration of 12 months.

The study also found 1,060, or about 20 percent, to be newly homeless — those experiencing homelessness for less than one year and this being their first occasion.

The study was the seventh such PIT count conducted by MDHI in Denver. While a “logistical nightmare,” the count provides vital insight in homelessness in metro Denver, Connelly said.

“Capturing this data is essential, however, if we want to respond more effectively to people living in crisis,” Connelly said in the report. “Without it, anecdotes and feel-good stories will continue to outweigh and outshine data and evidence-based approaches. We need both anecdotes and data, but anecdotes continue to win the day.”

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