Homeless advocates gearing up for 2020 count

Point-in-time survey looking for volunteers, donations for magnet events

Scott Taylor
staylor@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 1/15/20

Colorado homeless advocates learned a lot from 2019’s homeless census, despite a snap snowstorm. “So, the numbers of Adams County homeless continued to rise last year, despite the storm,” said …

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Homeless advocates gearing up for 2020 count

Point-in-time survey looking for volunteers, donations for magnet events

Posted

Colorado homeless advocates learned a lot from 2019’s homeless census, despite a snap snowstorm.

“So, the numbers of Adams County homeless continued to rise last year, despite the storm,” said Kate Skarbek, special projects analyst for Westminster’s Parks, Recreation and Library department.

Now, they’re preparing to do it again, for 2020. The annual count of the nation’s homeless continues Jan. 27 and 28, with volunteers working across the region and local governments hosting magnet events to offer services and counseling.

Skarbek said last year’s storm didn’t help Adams County’s magnet events. The late January snowstorm dumped 11-inches on the metro area and kept overnight temperatures around ten degrees. Many homeless people that might have ventured out from their overnighting spot in warm weather to come to the event chose to hunker down in the cold instead.

“We almost got snowed out, but we still had 12 people show up,” Skarbek said.

Still, the event was a success.

“That night we didn’t have as many people attend as we did the previous year, but remember that the year we didn’t do a magnet event, we only counted one person in the county,” Skarbek said. “We learned people had largely pooled their money and stayed in hotels during the storm. We started to see people on the streets and at the Tuesday magnet events after the check-out times at the hotels.”

Skarbek said Adams County will host six events this year designed to draw in homeless individuals for the annual survey, offering free food, gear, showers and visits with medical professionals and barbers.

The effort begins Jan. 27 — a Monday — at Westminster’s Irving Street Swim and Fitness Center. The Westminster magnet site is open from 5-8 p.m.

The count continues on Jan. 28 at magnet sites across Adams County.

“I’d like people to know that we are still looking for volunteers across the whole Metro Denver area,” she said. “We need people to conduct surveys and we need others to work inside the magnet events, to work with the flow and make sure the people can make to all the services they need. So there is a wide variety of ways people can plug in.”

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.

Cities across the country are required to take the survey each year on the last two days 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 to get a more accurate count. Those events featured food, services and counseling for homeless individuals.

Continuing to rise

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.

More magnets in 2020

This year’s count runs from sundown Jan. 28 to sundown Jan. 29.

This year, Adams County will host six magnet events in Westminster, Northglenn, Thornton, Commerce City, Brighton and Bennett.

Jefferson County is hosting three events as well over the two day period.

They won’t be alone. Denver is hosting three events Jan. 28 and Arapahoe County is hosting three events. Broomfield is hosting its first event , too.

“I think it’s evidence that local governments are now all talking about homeless and realizing that it’s a regional issue and that we need to have policy changes made across entire counties — at a minimum,” she said.

Skarbek said local volunteers collected a roomful of goods — everything from warm socks to winter coats and sleeping bags to dog food. Homeless guests were invited use the facilities’ showers, get a check up with nurses, a haircut and a hot, catered meal.

“We still need donations, especially sleeping bags,” she said. “Those are always hard to come by.”

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