DENVER (KDVR) — Statistics are imperfect, but they point to the Denver metro area having more unsheltered homeless people than any point in the last decade.
Ahead of Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game on July 13, Denver officials are cleaning up homeless camps across the downtown area. Homeless advocates suggest the city is trying to sweep its homeless issue under the rug and present a sanitized version of Denver to the out-of-towners sure to flock to Coors Field. City officials say the game has nothing to do with it – street side homeless encampments have simply reached critical points of garbage and waste pileup and need to be shifted.
Over the last decade, the most readily-available estimates for unsheltered homeless counts have more than doubled.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development conducts annual Point-In-Time counts of homeless persons. The counts tally both sheltered and unsheltered homeless people on a single night in January. Cities and towns across the county take part in the largely volunteer-driven event.
Critics say HUD counts are inadequate and routinely underrepresent the number of homeless persons. Still, they are a helpful guide for a hard-to-quantify section of the population.
HUD Point-In-Time counts for the Denver metro show about as many homeless people counted now as 10 years ago.
In 2011, the HUD count tallied 4,809 homeless people. For the next three years, that number tracked up and eventually added almost 2,000 by 2014.
Since 2015, the number of homeless people in the Denver metro gone up and down, but remains largely unchanged over that time period. There were 6,104 homeless people in 2020 – the highest number since 2014.
The bigger change was not with the raw number of homeless people. Rather, the Denver metro has seen increasing numbers of homeless people not staying in shelters.
In 2014, the Denver metro counted 671 unsheltered homeless people. In 2020, that had nearly tripled to 1,561.