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Families with children changing the “face of homelessness”

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DENVER — Ashley Anderson has been living with her one-month-old son at the Volunteers of America Motel in Denver since he was born.

After she and her husband found themselves on the street.

“We both had jobs and we both got laid off,” she said.

Families with children represent 52 percent of Denver’s newly homeless population.

“As our face of homelessness changes,” said Bennie Milliner, executive director of Denver’s Road Home, “We’re redirecting, we’re setting some sights, and definitely, families with children are a big part of where our efforts are.”

The group provides guidance for people like Ashley to where and how to find help.

“A lot of people see just the person standing on the corner with the sign and that’s their concept of homelessness, but the real idea is these are families, people who have recently lost their jobs, lost their homes, and don’t know where to turn,” said Shehila Stephens, who is the VOA Family Motel Project Manager.

Supporters of the proposed Denver camping ban say it will help connect families to needed resources by getting them off the streets.

“This town, in certain parts of it, is being taken over by the homeless,” said Denver City Councilman Charlie Brown, adding that it is hurting neighborhoods and businesses.

“Visitors expect a clean city, they expect a safe city, and they don’t feel safe and they don’t see cleanliness,” said Brown.

But for those like Ashley, finding themselves homeless was definitely not a choice.

“It’s helping us off the streets,” she said. “It lets me have custody of my child right now, because if I didn’t have nowhere to go they wouldn’t let me have my baby.”

Unfortunately, the struggle is far from over for Ashley and others who are in same circumstances.

“We never thought it would turn out this way, never ever,” she said.

Opponents of the ban say it criminalizes homelessness, but supporters say the takeover of the 16th Street Mall, Civic Center Park and some other areas of the city by a large number of homeless have made this ordinance long overdue, and provides a way to get help for those families who need it.

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