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Denver Solidifies Strategic Plan for Homelessness Following Audit


Proposed new department will galvanize and enhance city resources

Mayor Michael B. Hancock today released the following statement on recommendations put forward by Auditor Timothy O’Brien in an audit of homeless services provided by Denver’s Road Home.
“We are working to connect all Denver residents to a home, a good job, and a safe, healthy future,” said Mayor Michael B. Hancock. “We appreciate the auditor’s common-sense recommendations, which are in line with our plan to focus our collective efforts through the creation of a new department of housing and homelessness. We are strengthening and aligning our resources to empower more people to move from the streets to permanent housing, supports, and work with dignity and compassion.”
The impacts of homelessness are a challenge for cities across the nation. Denver is meeting this challenge with tremendous success and yet we have much more work to do.
The number of people experiencing homelessness in Denver has been declining for the last three years as Denver has moved increasing numbers of people from the streets into permanent housing:

  • In 2018, more than 1,500 people were connected to a permanent home, up from 1,369 people housed in 2017, and 1,188 housed in 2016.
  • In total, 7,552 individuals and families have been moved out of homelessness during the Hancock administration.
  • That number will continue to grow with increasing annual investments into housing for those experiencing homelessness through the city’s Affordable Housing Fund.
    • Up to 50% of the Affordable Housing Funds over the next four years are focused on housing for people at 0-30% of the Area Median Income range and people experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness. 
  • Denver is the first city in the nation to use social impact bonds to house more than 285 people experiencing long-term homelessness who frequently interacted with jail and emergency services. Two years into the social impact bond program, 85 percent of participants are stably housed and thriving.
  • Denver achieved a 33.8% increase in housing and reunification for people living in homelessness between 2016 and 2018.
  • The city helped tens of thousands of residents avoid homelessness through programs like:
    • Eviction and foreclosure assistance
    • Eviction mediation
    • Temporary rental and utility assistance
    • Tenant-landlord counseling and similar housing initiatives.

The annual Point in Time count indicates:

  • The number of people experiencing homelessness in Denver is declining, but it is still too high with more than 3,500 people living unhoused at any point in time.
  • More than 84% of those experiencing homelessness stay indoors in overnight shelters, transitional housing or some other safe haven.
    • More than 1,779 total shelter beds and 40 youth beds are available each night; capacity exists every night thanks to overflow beds.
    • 60-120 shelter beds for single men are available most nights and 12-20 are available for women.
    • The city is working to establish 24/7 shelters to better accommodate people experiencing homelessness who are working or who have medical and other needs to remain in one place.
    • A Rapid Resolution Pilot Program (also known as shelter diversion) in the city’s shelters is connecting first-time shelter guests to a permanent housing solution. In the pilot’s first year, 255 individuals and families were served, 70 percent of whom successfully stabilized their housing crisis. More than 124 individuals and families returned to permanent housing.
  • Despite sufficient capacity and increases in shelter and housing, it is increasingly difficult to get people to engage in services, be sheltered, and be ready to enter housing, which leaves 15.4% of people who experience homelessness in Denver unsheltered.
    • To reach these individuals, Denver’s Street Outreach Teams connect with more than 500 people each day to establish rapport and connect these residents to housing and essential resources.

Jobs, mental health services, and treatment are essential for people:

  • Denver Day Works has put more than $373,000 into the pockets of 300+ individuals experiencing homelessness by providing them the opportunity for work. Nearly 150 participants have found permanent employment, the majority with private employers.
  • “Co-responders” --civilian mental health professionals -- have accompanied police on thousands of calls involving people in crisis. These trained professionals provide 100% follow up to all clients, assuring people are engaged at the time of a behavioral health crisis and remain supported as they stabilize.
  • A new Treatment on Demand pilot program with Denver Health offers patients struggling with opioid misuse medically assisted treatment the same day they come to Denver Health for support.
  • The city is supporting the implementation of the Caring 4 Denver initiative, which will provide additional resources to homelessness, mental health and addiction.
  • The city will also open a new 46-bed crisis-stabilization center where people experiencing homelessness can stay for several days to several weeks as they recover from a behavioral health crisis and connect to longer-term resources.

With the formation of a new department of housing and homelessness, and as recommended by the Auditor’s review, the city will undertake development of a new comprehensive strategic plan to address homelessness, which will explore new innovations and build on Denver’s current and past successes. The plan will implement measurements to track the city’s forward progress and show the human impacts of Denver’s strategy and investments into the prevention of and solutions to homelessness.