Getting help, getting counted

Annual homeless survey offers food, supplies to people who need it

Scott Taylor
staylor@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 2/5/20

Tammy Bergman and Joseph Talmich have ties to Northglenn and the surrounding community — Bergman’s mother lives in area and so did Talmich’s grandmother, until she died a few years ago. They …

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Getting help, getting counted

Annual homeless survey offers food, supplies to people who need it

Posted

Tammy Bergman and Joseph Talmich have ties to Northglenn and the surrounding community — Bergman’s mother lives in area and so did Talmich’s grandmother, until she died a few years ago.

They like the community but they don’t have homes.

Bergman and Talmich were two of the people that came to the Northglenn Recreation Center Jan. 28 to get a hot meal, clean up and get some help. It was part of the annual Point in Time survey sponsored by the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative.

Homeless advocates across the Front Range fan out for two days each January to count the homeless as part of the annual Everyone Counts Point-in-time survey for the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative.

“I’ve been here 40-some years, but I’ve been homeless off and on for two years,” Bergman said. “It’s usually my Mom and I get in a big old fight and I’m out the door. That’s what happened this time.”

Talmich grew up in Denver, but his grandma lived in Northglenn two years ago and he’s been homeless ever since.

They try and stay close.

“We were staying here, recently, just on the other side of the highway,” Bergman said.

It was both the first time they had participated in the annual survey and they both had some things they wanted, but couldn’t get that day. Bergman was hoping to find a tent. Talmich wanted to get some sort of identification card to help him find a job. But the tents were all gone by the time they’d arrived and agencies that could help provide identification didn’t attend the Northglenn event.

Bergman said they’d get something to eat, get some warm clothes and take a shower in the recreation center before heading back out.

Annual count

Cities across the country are required to take the survey each year towards the end of January to qualify for federal funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Along the Front Range, the effort is spearheaded by Metro Denver Homeless Initiative. That group organizes events and trains volunteers to perform the surveys. Initiative volunteers spread out across the Denver area to find homeless individuals, count them and ask them to take part in the survey.

Advocates began offering magnet sites, four in Jefferson County and three in Adams, in 2018 featuring food, services and counseling for homeless individuals as a way to count more people but also to get them services that could help them.

Adams County hosted five magnet event this year, in Westminster, Commerce City, Northglenn, Thornton and Bennett. Kate Skarbek, organizer of the Westminster magnet event, said the 2020 count was bolstered by mild temperatures. A blizzard in Jan. 2019 led many of the area’s homeless to grab spot where they could hunker down for the storm. Others pulled their money to rent hotel rooms for the day.

This year, the Westminster event, around sunset on Jan. 27, had 21 homeless people come to take advantage of the services offered.

“They received services from a wide variety of providers including vaccinations for Hep A, meningitis and flu,” Skarbek wrote in an email. “The volunteers who sat and ate with the attendees were able to identify additional needs that we were then also able to connect them to.”

Meanwhile, volunteers who ventured out to find homeless people on the streets had even better luck.

“In fact, the count from street outreach likely is higher than the magnet event,” Skarbek wrote. “Community members were terrific about volunteering. We had more people out looking to connect with those living outdoors than we have in the past. Made all the difference.”

Kathy Kvasnicka, Risk Analyst for the City of Northglenn, helped organize the magnet event at the City Recreation Center on Jan. 28. She said about 25 people came in to the Northglenn site and most were unaware that it was happening beforehand.

“People tend to be suspicious,” Kvasnicka said. “We had a volunteer go up to a overpass where they were camped out and tell them about the magnet site. At first, we had a couple people come in to scope it out and then they went back and reported that it was OK. Then, we had more people come in.”

The event offered flu and other vaccines Adams County, food from Save-a-Lot grocer and Jim ‘N Nick’s Barbecue, as well as food and clothing from donations.

“We have a very generous community helping us with this,” Kvasnicka said,

2020 results being tallied

The total count for 2020 is still being determined by Metro Denver Homeless Initiative.

The 2019 survey reported 483 homeless individuals in Adams County based on the point-in-time survey, compared to 466 in 2018 and 157 in 2017.

Meanwhile, Jefferson County saw the total homeless count dip from 577 in 2018 to 434 in 2019.

Regionally the census found 5,755 homeless in the metro Denver area in 2019 compared to 5,317 in 2018. That includes most of the Denver-area counties from Boulder south to Douglas County. Of that total, 3,943 were in Denver and 623 in Boulder. Douglas County counted 14 homeless individuals in 2019.

According to the 2019 regional results, 4,809 of the reported homeless were in some sort of shelter or transitional housing on the night of the survey and 1,402 were households with at least one child younger than 18 years-old. Of the 946 reported to living on the streets, under bridges, in a camp or in a car, 18 included households with at least one child.

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