LITTLETON, Colo. – Arapahoe County is moving forward with a plan to provide housing to people experiencing homelessness who often find themselves in and out of the criminal justice system.
The Arapahoe County Commission approved a plan to spend $3 million to provide permanent supportive housing for 80 to 100 "justice-involved" individuals, including recently released inmates and those participating in court-related programs who are homeless.
The money will come from COVID relief funding the county received through the American Rescue Plan Act.
It will address a problem that officials say has been worsening, especially since the pandemic.
“The issue is that folks who are in the justice system, if they are released without housing, chances of them recidivating is pretty high,” said Arapahoe County Commissioner Nancy Jackson.
County leaders said 21% of inmates identified as homeless when they were booked into jail this year.
About 15% of inmates in Arapahoe County were homeless in 2018 at the time of their booking, according to county commission documents.
Homeless inmates in Arapahoe County were 58% more likely to return to jail in 2018.
“If we can get folks who are in the justice system into housing, surround them with therapy, jobs … all the kinds of wraparound services that they need to get them on their feet, then the chances of them recidivating is much lower,” said Jackson. “Sometimes they're ready when they get out of jail, sometimes they're not. But give them time, help them trust. A lot of these folks have trust issues.”
The county selected Brothers Redevelopment, Inc. as the developer for the project.
Brothers Redevelopment, Inc. is a nonprofit that manages several housing communities for low-income, disabled and elderly people.
Jeff Martinez, the president of Brothers Redevelopment, Inc., said they are proud to be working with Arapahoe County.
“It’s certainly going to fill a big need in Arapahoe County,” said Martinez.
Martinez said they are looking for a location to build the housing. He says another option could be rehabbing an existing building.
“We're also looking to find some partners who can help us provide services that the future tenants of that community will need,” said Martinez.
Martinez said homelessness has become a big issue across the region, impacting people from different walks of life.
“We see communities struggling to find solutions for individuals who are housing insecure, and it's not just affecting single males,” said Martinez. “It's affecting families. It's affecting our seniors and individuals with a disability. It's such a big challenge for so many right now.”
Advocates say a lack of affordable housing is to blame for much of the homelessness in Colorado, in particular in the Denver metro area.
As for Arapahoe County’s plan, Jackson said she’s hopeful the state will provide grants to help the county pay for the project.
“The state has been super helpful,” said Jackson. “We’ll get some grants I’m sure from them and we will maximize what we can without raising taxes.”
Jackson said in addition to people recently released from jail, individuals participating in several court-related programs, including problem-solving courts, will be eligible for housing and services, though the final details must still be worked out.
Jackson said because of safety issues the housing would be for single adults, not families.
“You want to have just single folks so that they can concentrate on their rehabilitation,” said Jackson.
She says everyone in the community will benefit.
“We know that there are cases where homeless folks have attacked people,” said Jackson, recounting a story about a friend who was attacked. “It’s better to have those folks, the homeless, the unhoused, in housing and working on getting better than to have them roaming all over the community.”
No timeline has been released, but Jackson is hopeful the county will be able to break ground in a year or two.