Englewood struggling to keep up with growing homeless population

Our CO: Council recently got involved in convos
Posted at 8:46 PM, May 22, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-22 22:46:08-04

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Colorado’s homeless population is growing in step with the rest of Colorado’s growth.

Englewood leaders tell Denver7 it doesn’t have a plan in place to deal with the growth yet, however.

“The resources in Englewood are not adequate for the number of homeless in Englewood right now,” said Englewood Mayor Pro Tem Rita Russell. “City council is only in the beginning stages of addressing the problem.”

We were first able to illustrate the homeless issue in Englewood after a major clean-up effort along the South Platte River. Groups who were part of the effort collected 25 truckloads of transient trash.

“There was a lot of trash, but there were also people there,” Donna Zimmerman told Denver7, referring to the 31 people who were removed from the South Platte riverbank.

Zimmerman is the program director at Giving Heart Resource Center in Englewood. It’s one of the very few resource centers in Arapahoe County that has offered the homeless a hand up instead of a handout.

“It was hard to take and hard to believe that that's the way people live,” she said.

“If something does not happen now, you're going to have a crisis,” Zimmerman explained. “Then it's going to be, ‘Why didn't we do something sooner?’" 

In 2016, she said the center saw 743 guests. The number nearly doubled to 1,400 in 2017 – one reason the resource center couldn’t wait for the city to do something.

Workers at Café 180 didn’t wait for city assistance either.

Boo Crosby is the café’s manager and volunteer coordinator. He explained the unique business model for the 8-year-old café.

“A person can either work for an hour in exchange for a hot meal, or they can work for an hour, for an hour of professional counseling at Denver Family Institute,” Crosby said.

The business is one of several in Englewood that is focused on “Changing the Trend” – the name of a community-driven coalition that wants to help the homeless navigate through the limited resources that are available to them.

“This is a collaboration where we're just trying to get as many people and partners that want to work towards a solution,” Crosby said. “These are hardworking folks, these are people who want to contribute.”

The homeless are much more visible as Denver’s homeless population strays from downtown and into the suburbs.

“They are absolutely more than just numbers,” Crosby continued. “These are human souls who have just as much worth as you or I do.”

The Change the Trend network includes representatives from Café 180, Giving Heart, Englewood Police, the Severe Weather Shelter Network, the Sacred Grace Englewood, the AllHealth Network, and Wellspring Anglican Church.