Homeless Sweeps

A sign leans against a cyclone fence surrounding a homeless encampment during a sweep around the intersection of 14th Avenue and Logan Street near the State Capitol early Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020, in downtown Denver.

A new report by the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative finds that over 30,000 people in the metro area accessed services or housing assistance related to homelessness during the 12 months ending last June. The group says that’s a lot more than it typically tallies in its annual survey of the homeless called Point in Time. The report also points to a “gross overrepresentation” of Blacks and Native Americans among the area’s homeless.

As reported by our news affiliate, Colorado Politics, the “State of Homelessness 2020” report is unprecedented in the state, tapping a data system shared by homeless service and housing providers around the metro area.  The clearer a picture our elected leaders and other policy makers can get of the homeless, the better in developing meaningful, innovative solutions to homelessness.

Our community is overdue for a wide-ranging conversation about how to move forward in this epic saga. We must look beyond the conventional thinking that has yielded forever failing policies. While next steps are as yet unclear, it seems fresh thinking is in order.

What should be clear by now, though, is this latest, troubling tally of the homeless does not make the case for pumping more public funding into the City and County of Denver’s perennially ineffectual bureaucracy for addressing the homeless. That’s a big reason why we oppose Denver’s misguided Measure 2B on the fall ballot.

As we noted here recently, a comprehensive report last year by Denver’s city auditor on City Hall’s wide-ranging homeless services, the city budgeted $37 million toward the effort in 2018 and, last year, expanded the budget for homeless services to more than $51 million. All of it well intended, of course — but largely futile.

Yet now, the Denver City Council wants voters to OK a 0.25% sales tax hike “to fund housing, shelter, and services for persons experiencing or having exited homelessness” — i.e., for more of the same old policies that have gotten us nowhere.