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Denver councilwoman says solutions to homelessness require "our entire community"

Posted at 6:07 PM, Jun 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-15 20:07:01-04

DENVER — It is a problem that is hard to miss in downtown Denver, but a problem few have solutions to fix.

Homelessness draws raw emotions from Denverites, from anger to sympathy to helplessness. Amid coronavirus, officials say that the problem is getting worse as more people are unable to pay rent.

But what can be done to solve the growing crisis?

Denver councilwoman Robin Kniech said we already have some in place, but they are not well funded.

One, a shelter plan, calls for "more humane environments that are open 24 hours a day. Places where people can go and pets can go," Kniech said.

The other plan is focused on supportive and transitional housing, but "it doesn’t have quite enough funding to do it as fast as we need," Kniech said.

And now, another funding nightmare, because of COVID-19.

According to Kniech, the problems that existed before were pressing, but "you imagine COVID as a jackhammer, blowing those cracks up. They were there, but this has exploded them. And the urgency is only greater."

Now, with a funding deficit and a growing crisis, the solutions are going to need to be even bolder. But Kniech said she has not given up hope.

"I know that our community can feel like homelessness is overwhelming and like it cannot be solved. We have models that work," she said. "It is about getting enough of those homes to get folks off the streets. It is a question of our will, not whether it is possible."

Because of coronavirus, capacity at homeless shelters is severely decreased meaning more shelters will have to be built to accommodate. But that is only possible if there is community support behind it.

"You have to choose, do you want someone living in the park or do you want them living in a building next door where they are housed and have services. We can not afford not in my backyard," she said. "We can not afford to say that folks should live somewhere else."

At the end of the day, she says the decisions clean the streets, and find humane solutions, is up to the taxpayers and the voters.

"Government is only made up of the people," Kniech said. "It is about partnership and they will need to be with us on these solutions."