”The (point-in-time survey) is always a humbling and heartbreaking experience”

Jeffco participates in annual count of area homeless people

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Robert sat with a blanket and a few jackets on outside an Applebee's Neighborhood Grill + Bar on a 32-degree night, in Lakewood on Jan. 27. Across the street from him sat his bike, locked to a pole along with all of his belongings. Among them are tools that he yearns to use again for his former profession — carpentry.

He's homeless and doesn't want to go to a shelter, because he fears of somebody stealing those belongings. So he stays on the streets in Lakewood.

“All I want to do is get work, and everybody just wants your information, but nobody wants to put you to work. All everybody ever did was take my number and not put me to work,” said Robert. “It's just frustrating.”

Robert was part of the 2020 point-in-time survey, an annual count to find how many people are homeless during one point in time of the year. The survey took place on Jan. 27 and Jan. 28 across the state, including in Jefferson, Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder and Douglas counties, as well as in Aurora and in the cities and counties of Denver and Broomfield.

MORE: 2020 PIT in Arvada

Last year, the survey found 434 people experiencing homelessness in Jefferson County. Results from this year's count won't be available for months as data is entered and duplicate entries removed.

MORE: Homelessness in Jeffco - The Series

The count is conducted by various organizations in Colorado, including faith-based groups, government organizations and human-service organizations like Family Tree. The Jefferson County organization works with people affected by child abuse, domestic violence and homelessness.

Cassie Ratliff, programs director of the homelessness program at Family Tree, has participated in nine point-in-time surveys. This year, she spent time wandering up and down Colfax as well as areas of Edgewater to count homeless people. She says the count helps organizations understand what type of resources are needed to help those in need.

“The (point-in-time survey) is always a humbling and heartbreaking experience. You get to meet people and talk to them in their world,” said Ratliff. “No survey is perfect, but you still try to bring in an accurate number. I feel good that we covered a lot of square miles in Jeffco.”

Organizations and advocates held “magnet events” where they offered food, blankets, clothing and services to the homeless. The magnet events are intended to help obtain a more accurate count of homeless people. This year, there were five magnet events hosted in Adams County and three events in Jefferson County, according to the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative — the organization that puts together events and trains residents who conduct the survey.

“You freeze, you stink, and you're not welcome in a lot of places. (Donations) help,” said April Lopez, a homeless woman who stays in the Lakewood area. She attended a magnet event that was hosted by Family Tree at a parking lot at 6467 W. Colfax.

“All these things that are provided are very nice. I'm very grateful for that,” Lopez continued. “Sometimes what somebody thinks is trash helps a lot of other people.”

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