DENVER- The Metro Denver Homeless Initiative (MDHI) recently released a report that found homelessness is increasing in the Denver metro area.
The report found on any given night in Denver, 40% of people experiencing homelessness are sleeping outdoors.
The report also found that of the 10,870 adults experiencing homelessness nearly 23% were Black, a ratio 4 1/2 times the Black population of metro Denver.
“A lot of people in the African-American community are less likely to go receive resources,” said Marcus Weaver, Deputy Director of the Community Outreach Service Center. "We hear a lot of reasons why many are hesitant to find help from things like the way they've been treated to people not understanding their situation."
Weaver said 12 years ago he was homeless and he knows how hard it can be to get off the streets.
“At the core of it is just having empathy for those who need it the most,” said Weaver.
“It is a continuation of a pattern that has existed for a long time and one that should trouble us all,” said Denver’s Chief Housing Officer, Britta Fisher, in response to the overrepresentation of people of color experiencing homelessness in the MDHI report.
Fisher said in 2022 the city will spend $270 million to address housing equity issues and homelessness with real solutions that have been proven to work.
“We're going to keep doing the things that we know work...like housing with services that help people exiting homelessness, and we're going to still try to meet those immediate needs, like with our Safe Outdoor Spaces and employment services and other things that help stabilize people to connect them to housing long term," said Fisher.
The report did find a 15% decrease among veterans experiencing homelessness in Denver.
Andrew Canales, Founding President of Houses for Warriors, an organization that provides housing assistance to veterans said organizations like his likely contributed to the decrease.
“I think it has a lot to do with the shared living operations similar to Houses for Warriors popping up throughout Denver,” said Cannales.
“We have a transitional housing program, where veterans get a hand up rather than a handout, and get to have a safe and comfortable place to get back on their feet and obtain all of those benefits and resources that are out there for them,” said Canales. “We work with different organizations like the V.A. to get them housing vouchers, security deposits and stuff like that.”
Canales, who also experienced homelessness in the past, said they also help address underlying issues like mental health.
"The problem is that with the numbers of homeless veterans going down, our suicide rate still continues to rise," he said.
Canales said addressing mental health issues could help even more veterans find stable housing.