DENVER – The number of people experiencing homelessness in the Denver metro area on a given night grew by 13% in 2022, according to preliminary data released by the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative Thursday.
The organization’s preliminary first phase of their 2022 Point-in-Time (PIT) count data, which captures homelessness nationally on a single night in January, showed an overall increase of 784 people from pre-pandemic levels, which translate to an increase of 12.8% from two years prior.
“We are awaiting HUD’s verification of the region’s demographic data before releasing further information, but for planning purposes, it is important to share the overall sheltered and unsheltered count for the region,” said Dr. Jamie Rife, the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative’s (MDHI) executive director.
The second phase of the data will be released once the U.S. Department of Housing and Development (HUD)’s verification process is completed later this summer, she said.
The PIT count took place Monday, Jan. 24 and included people staying in shelters and outdoors. Last year’s PIT count did not include people staying outdoors due to safety concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.
In January 2020, about six weeks before the beginning of the pandemic and the last time a comprehensive PIT count was conducted by the MDHI, there were 6,104 people counted who were experiencing homelessness. That number grew to 6,888 this year.
Preliminary data from the MDHI shows the number of people staying in shelters remained relatively the same in 2022 compared to pre-pandemic levels, with 4,534 people staying in shelters in 2020 and 4,815 in 2022.
Unsheltered homelessness, however, increased across the region, the preliminary data shows. In 2020, 1561 people were unsheltered compared to 2,073 this year – a 32.8% increase.
The HDMI says the Denver metro region has “made significant strides” in not depending too much on the PIT count, which only provides data for a given night each year. Instead, officials said, partner organizations are working together to improve the region’s Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) to make data more accessible on those experiencing homelessness each day.
“While the region was able to locate and count 6,888 individuals on a single night experiencing homelessness, the HMIS allows us to see this number is closer 31,000 throughout the course of the year,” Rife said. “This data highlights the dynamic nature of homelessness and the importance of real-time data to allow the region to coordinate effectively and allocate resources efficiently.”
The organization’s State of Homelessness report, released earlier this year, found the number of people who experienced homelessness for the first time doubled from 2020 to 2021 – a “direct result” of the coronavirus pandemic. That number is expected to have increased even more in 2022.
The report found those experiencing homelessness tended to be Black, Indigenous or People of Color (BIPOC), pointing to the racial inequalities that exist when it comes to homelessness.
The report blames lack of affordable housing for the increase in homelessness and calls on city leaders to recognize the inequity of the homeless crisis in the Denver metro and work to make sure there’s an equitable prioritization process with the ultimate goal of “eliminating over-presentation of any one population.”
It also advises those looking to solve the problem to look at the society systems currently in place that are exacerbating the homelessness crisis: Inequities in criminal justice, child welfare, and healthcare; and work toward supporting programs that contribute to economic stability: Quality childcare, employment, and education opportunities.