Survey measures homeless in Arvada

Point in Time survey occurs nationwide the last 10 days in January

Posted 2/6/19

The day shelter at The Rising Church in Olde Town Arvada was buzzing the afternoon of Jan. 29 with men and women seeking showers, a meal and a place to shelter from the freezing temperatures. The …

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Survey measures homeless in Arvada

Point in Time survey occurs nationwide the last 10 days in January

Posted

The day shelter at The Rising Church in Olde Town Arvada was buzzing the afternoon of Jan. 29 with men and women seeking showers, a meal and a place to shelter from the freezing temperatures.

The scene is typical for the church, which provides services for people experiencing homelessness in Arvada. About 50 people a day visit the space. But what was special about that day, was the Point in Time survey.

In Jefferson County, 577 people were recorded living in a homeless situation. That’s almost 200 more people than the 2017 count recorded.

MORE: Annual survey of homeless done over a snowy 24 hours

However, those that work with homeless populations believe that the 2018 count was actually low because of the warm temperatures. This year, the metro area saw below freezing temperatures triggering the Severe Weather Shelter Network to be activated and around 30 single men and women sheltering the night of the count at Arvada Vinyard, one of three host churches for the network in Arvada.

“The whole thing seems a lot smoother than previous years,” Stephen Byers, pastor of the The Rising Church, said about the Point in Time survey. “My guess is they will not count all of them, but they will get a good number.”

At the day shelter run at the church, Byers sees a lot of new faces each week. But he says it’s not so much that the number of people experiencing homelessness is going up, but that they are seeing turnover.

“We do see more homeless working and because they are working, they are getting themselves motels on cold nights,” Byers said. “We do see people getting off the streets and we do see people getting some help.”

One of those people is Devin Ramsey, 26, who has experiences homelessness off and on for the past six years.

“Everyone has a different story,” Ramsey said. “Homelessness isn’t just drugs. It isn’t just drinking. It isn’t just mental health. It’s literally not having a place.

“My own story is a little bit of drinking, a little bit of mental health, a little bit of just not having a lot of responsibility growing up.”

Ramsey currently has a job and is staying on someone’s couch. He is working his way toward securing permanent hosing of his own.

“It’s very difficult to go from surviving to living,” he said. “I’m very much still in survival mode. I’m in a better place than I was a few years ago. And in a few years, I’m sure I’ll be in a better place than I am now.”

Ramsey said that getting himself out of homelessness is a process, and “not just a snap of your fingers.”

“It’s hard work and it’s much harder than people can imagine,” he said.

Ramsey said it was important for him to come to The Rising for the count because of the lack of resources available to people experiencing homelessness in Jefferson County.

“My experience with homeless resources has been there are a lot of resources for specific groups and people, but I have never fit criteria for those,” Ramsey said. “I don’t think Arvada and Jefferson County has really taken into account what the population really looks like and how little resource there actually are.”

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

For the annual survey, The Rising partnered with the Arvada Library, which is located across the street to provide additional services, food and bus passes to those who participated.

“As an institution that is open and available for the public, it is one of the only places you can show up and you don’t have to believe in anything or buy something,” said Jennifer Reading, Arvada Library manager. “Having that freedom to just participate in what is happening in the space makes it the perfect location for a service like this.”

Reading said hosting an event during the Point in Time count also allows staff to build relationships with people who are at the library on a regular basis that might not normally engage in conversation.

The partnership between The Rising and the library was one of many throughout the county to ensure a more accurate count of people experiencing homelessness.

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