DENVER (KDVR) — Newly released data from the Denver Office of the Medical Examiner reports that 70% of the homeless deaths in Denver this year were caused by drugs and alcohol.
It’s a 10% increase from last year.
Meghan Shay is the executive director of STEP Denver, a local addiction program center. She said their specialty is helping men overcome addiction and reach sobriety in every aspect of their lives from the ground up.
“It’s heartbreaking and crushing because you know the potential of these people,” Shay said. “We know they have something to offer this world if they could get their addiction into remission.”
It’s what organizers do at the organization’s 60-bed facility on Larimer Street.
“We also have six sober living homes in metro Denver, so at any given time we can house up to 90 men. We serve about 400 men each year helping them exit homelessness,” said Shay. “We know the men coming to us are in life or death circumstances.”
She said help is out there, and the proof of that is on the wall inside their facility.
“Seventeen of our 22 employees are STEP alumni who came in having lost everything and able to rebuild their lives, and now they are helping men following in their footsteps,“ Shay said.
Every month, STEP Denver leaders contact 43 organizations to see how many addiction recovery beds are available.
As of Sunday, there were 118 available, including seven at STEP Denver.
Shelters are operating at 86% capacity, recovery programs at 64%, and detoxes operating at 71%.
“Same-day admission, no cost to enter,” said Shay. “The danger of this narrative that there is no help available and we need more services is that those that need the help may think ‘there’s nowhere I can go.’ The fact is, at any given time, there are over 100 beds available to those who want it.”
STEP Denver organizers surveyed their alumni staff to find out what key motivators made them seek help. Many said the loss of a family member, health-related issues, conditions on the street, and the threat of jail time.
If you need help with addiction or if you know anyone who does, you can contact the shelter at 303-295-STEP (7837) or visit their website.