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Denver leaders travel to Houston to help address homelessness

Houston has received national attention after reporting that more than 25,000 people experiencing homelessness were placed in permanent housing.

AURORA, Colo. — Officials from around the Denver metro, including Aurora, Denver, Adams and Arapahoe counties, traveled to Houston, Texas on Wednesday to better understand how that city addressed homelessness, which recently gained national attention.

The group is meeting with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and other leaders of nonprofits, government and the greater Houston area to learn about the area's street outreach efforts, and how they approached getting people experiencing homelessness into stable housing. 

The Coalition for the Homeless of Houston and Harris County found in their 2022 Point In Time (PIT) count, which counts the number of people experiencing homelessness on a single night, found a 19% decrease in overall homelessness in the area, since 2020. 

More than 25,000 people have been placed in permanent housing since 2011, according to the report. 

Credit: FILE

For Denver, the preliminary findings from the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative found an increase.

In January 2020, there were 6,104 people counted experiencing homelessness – this year, 6,888 people were counted, or a 12.8% increase. 

"We've been struggling with homelessness in the metro for a decade plus now," said Juan Marcano, Aurora City Council member for Ward 4 who is on the trip. "It wasn't necessarily so much the demographics, though, that were the key indicator as to why this might be a good case to look at. But it was the regional collaboration."

He's long been opposed to Aurora's camping ban and said Houston's housing-first approach is something he'd like to see implemented in the metro. 

"And then in order to keep folks housed, they brought in supportive services, wrap-around services, as they're typically referred to. So, you know, work placement, skills training, mental health services, behavioral health services, etc., whatever you need, they basically pair you up with that after they get you housed," he said. 

Credit: City of Aurora
Denver metro leaders meet in Houston to learn the city's strategy to address homelessness.

In the case of Houston, the Community COVID Housing Program provided homelessness diversion services to approximately 5,000 people from October 2020 to October 2022. 

"Getting all of our partner jurisdictions in the metro together on the same page so that we can, you know, eliminate any kind of redundancies in our continuum of care and then really, really direct resources towards housing as the key vehicle for solving this issue," Marcano said. 

In Aurora's case, they'll meet on Sept. 19 for a study session to talk more about the trip to Houston. 

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