Annual survey of homeless done over a snowy 24 hours

Glenn Wallace
Posted 2/6/19

Every year in January, volunteers from churches, human services departments, nonprofits and law enforcement fan out into communities across the Denver metro area, and the nation conduct a …

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Annual survey of homeless done over a snowy 24 hours

Posted

Every year in January, volunteers from churches, human services departments, nonprofits and law enforcement fan out into communities across the Denver metro area, and the nation conduct a point-in-time (PIT) survey of their area’s homeless population. 

For a 24-hour period, these volunteers visit shelters, human service offices and the streets to find and interview as many homeless individuals as possible. The standardized survey form, available in mobile phone app form this year, covers basic demographic information, but also tries to get to the factors behind someone’s experience with homelessness. The survey subjects were asked about if they had mental health concerns, if they used drugs or if they were fleeing domestic violence.

MORE: Survey measures homeless in Arvada

In 2018, Metro Denver counted 5,317 total people experiencing homelessness, with 1,308 of those people counted staying outside in places like tents, vehicles, parks or underpasses.

The 2018 survey identified 577 homeless in Jefferson County. More than half were parents with at least one child in their care.

The results from this year’s survey won’t be available for a few months.

The Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development requires communities that receive grants and federal funding to conduct the PIT survey, to help gather comparative data of the entire nation.

“All that information has a local impact as well,” said Linda Barringer, the county coordinator for the survey. She said area agencies and nonprofits all use the survey data for grant writing and planning purposes.

Some 52 volunteers helped conduct this year’s survey in Jeffco, Barringer said.

By its nature, the homeless survey only acts as an incomplete snapshot of what the homeless population looks like on one night. To make the survey more accurate, many communities, including Jeffco, hold magnet events, offering shelter, food and supplies to those living on the streets, to hopefully gather more of them in specific locations. There were more than a dozen such magnet events across the metro area, according to the Metro Denver Housing Initiative, which organizes the survey for the area.

MORE: Community and police team up to ‘make a difference in someone’s life’

One factor that has a large effect on how many homeless come to shelters, and as such how many are counted in the survey results is weather. Last year’s count was on a mild night, especially compared to this year’s weather where temperatures were below freezing and it was snowing.

“if noting else, I’m glad we were able to get some people out of the cold for a little bit,” Barringer said, about the magnet event at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Lakewood, where a chicken dinner, and ARC-donated clothing were available.

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