Officials from Aurora, Denver, Adams and Arapahoe counties will travel to Houston Wednesday to explore solutions to the metro's homelessness crisis.
“Our goal is to make homelessness rare, brief and a one-time experience,” said Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman on behalf of the city and its staff. “I’m looking forward to seeing Houston’s approach to reducing homelessness, and we are interested in learning how they brought together key stakeholders from all sections of the community to work on this issue. The Metro Denver region has been working together on homelessness and this is a great opportunity for us as a region to learn together.”
During the two-day trip, Colorado leaders with meet with Houston city leaders, nonprofits and private organizations that are working to get people off the streets.
The number of people who experienced homelessness for the first time doubled from 2020 to 2021 – a “direct result” of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative.
Those are staggering numbers no doubt, but they're an undercount, as there is no full list of everyone experiencing homelessness across the Denver metro region, according to the organization which conducted the survey, released back in January.
Houston has received national attention for its work in tackling homelessness. After adopting a "housing first" approach, the city has seen a 63% reduction in homelessness since 2011, according to officials from Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County.
It hasn’t happened overnight, however, and homeless advocates in Houston say other cities shouldn’t expect such policies to have an immediate effect – though the success over the long run is what makes the effort worth it.
In July, the coalition told E.W. Scripps they’ve seen a 90% success rate with this method so far.
“Success to us means you have someone in permanent supportive housing and you do whatever it takes to keep that person in permanent supportive housing,” said Ana Rausch, vice president of program operations for the Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County.
Rausch said communication between partner organizations is the key to the success of these programs.
“Start talking to each other," Rausch said. "I would say that's a big one, because that's what we were doing wrong many years ago.