Community Snapshot: Denver

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National Alliance to End Homelessness

Community Snapshot | September 20, 2007

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August 2007

In 2005, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper outlined Denver’s Road Home, an ambitious plan to end homelessness in 10 years. This plan was the work of hundreds of individuals and organizations from across Denver appointed to the Denver Commission to End Homelessness. Denver’s Road Home is guided by Housing First principles, which aim to minimize the amount of time people spend homeless, help them return to permanent housing, and then link them to the services they need. The plan dramatically transforms how Denver responds to homelessness.

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Key Initiatives

Emergency Prevention. The key to ending homelessness is preventing it from occurring in the first place. Further, assisting a family or individual with rent, utility, or mortgage payments before they become homeless is significantly less expensive than providing emergency shelter. During the first two years of implementation, Denver’s Road Home provided eviction prevention assistance to 377 families, helping them to avoid homelessness.

Permanent Housing. Denver’s plan calls for creating 942 units of permanent supportive housing for people who are chronically homeless. The plan outlines a Housing First approach, which helps people who are chronically homeless (i.e., disabled and homeless for long periods or repeatedly) get back into permanent housing rapidly and then links them to services such as case management, mental health services, substance abuse treatment, health care, and employment and training (see Exhibit 1). Two years after initial implementation, Denver had completed 354 units of permanent supportive housing.

Mental Health Services. In addition to providing permanent housing, service provision is a major component of the plan, which has provided 1,214 people with substance abuse treatment, mental health, and medical services. The next step is expanding efforts to help homeless individuals without state identification cards complete the process for obtaining ID, which is often a prerequisite for accessing services and may be a major barrier to service utilization.

Employment. Helping people who experience homelessness obtain income that will support their rent payments is critical to sustaining housing stability. During the first two years of implementation, Denver’s Road Home provided employment services to 989 homeless people. The city also provided transportation services to help people secure employment and commute to work each day.

Data and Evaluation. An important component of Denver’s Road Home is ensuring that the plan and efforts to end homelessness are properly evaluated. The city has developed a performance measurement system, implemented Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), and is working on improving data quality. These data collection and evaluation efforts will help the city monitor future progress.

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Outcomes

Denver’s Road Home is starting to show results. Homelessness declined 13 percent from 4,444 in 2005 to 3,954 in 2007. The number of people who experience chronic homelessness dropped from 942 in 2005 to 602 in 2007, a decline of 36 percent. If Denver can reduce homelessness by another 550 people (or 14 percent) in 2008 then the number of homeless people will fall below the previous low of 3,441 in 2004. The city appears on track to achieving their goal of reducing homelessness by 75 percent by 2010 and ending homelessness altogether in ten years.