Citing a frenzy of foreclosures and increasing jobless rates, advocates for Colorado's homeless have declared a state of emergency.
"For the first time in the 23 years I have been working on homelessness in Colorado, we are facing great risk of significant death on the streets," said John Parvensky, president of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.
Parvensky pointed to the lack of affordable housing, shelter and health care services as reasons why homeless service providers are serving record numbers of people.
Parvensky said 16,000 individuals in Colorado were homeless last year. More than 60 percent have children.
"Most were homeless for the first time," Parvensky said.
To top it off, Parvensky said the resources to meet this increased need are declining.
"We've been without a home for six months," said Carrie Hinkle from the Jeffco Action Center shelter in Lakewood.
Hinkle has two children and one on the way.
"It's hard; it hurts to look at your kids in this situation," Hinkle said.
Hinkle's mother, Pam Atkins, works as a housekeeper. She, too, is at the shelter with her fiancé.
Atkins said they lost their apartment when her salary no longer covered the rent.
"It was either food or rent basically," Atkins said Wednesday.
Atkins said she and her daughter are on a program designed to transition them into more permanent housing.
Atkins' story is a familiar one to homeless advocates.
"We're seeing more of the newly homeless are families; those losing their housing because of housing market, because of foreclosures, and because loss of jobs," Parensky said.
Parvensky added the Coalition for Colorado works to find shelters or motels for families but occasionally has to turn them away when places fill up.
The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness recently estimated that cities across the country are likely to experience a 20 percent increase in homelessness in 2009 due to the economy.
The Jeffco Action Center, Volunteers of America, Samaritan House and Denver Rescue Missons Crossroads all offer assistance to families when space is available.
Atkins is confident her family will be back on their feet soon.
"I mean no one wants to be in a shelter, but anything's better than sleeping on the street. It's scary, I see so many people now," she said.
On Thursday, the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless will host a memorial vigil on the steps of the Denver City and County building to underscore the growing demand for help among the poor and newly homeless. The vigil is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m.
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