033022-dg-editorial-1

A homeless encampment on Pearl Street and 16th Avenue in Denver, Monday, Dec. 1, 2020. (cpr.org)

The Denver area saw a nearly 13% increase in homelessness on a single night in January compared to a pre-pandemic homeless count, according to preliminary point-in-time data for 2022 released by the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative.

The count is done nationally and showed a regional increase of 784 homeless people from pre-pandemic levels, according to a release from the organization. The count occurred on Jan. 24 and includes both people staying in shelters and outdoors.

Jamie Rife, the initiative's executive director, said the organization is still waiting on the Department of Housing and Urban Development to verify numbers and demographics. The initiative will release a second set of data once HUD’s verification process is complete this summer.

The last fully comprehensive point-in-time count in January 2020 counted 6,104 homeless people compared to 6,888 this year — a 12.8% increase. An outdoor count was not conducted locally in January 2021 because of concerns about COVID-19.

The number of people in shelters increased from 4,534 to 4,815, while the number of unsheltered homeless people rose from 1,561 in 2020 to 2,073 in 2022.

“The Point-in-Time is a snapshot of homelessness on a single night with numerous variables such as weather, count participation, volunteer engagement, and a variety of other factors,” Rife said in a release. “While this count can help us understand homelessness on a single night, getting to a place where we have comprehensive, real-time data regionally is the ultimate goal.”

Because the point-in-time data only looks at one night, the initiative has made “significant strides” in decreasing its reliance on this data, instead looking for improved participation in the local Homeless Management Information System. This system has daily data on homelessness, creating a more accurate real-time count across the metro's seven counties. The initiative’s annual State of Homelessness report focuses on data from this system.

“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 to 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.”

Homeless data