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Unhoused couples in Denver face barriers when it comes to shelter resources

denver homeless
Posted at 10:37 AM, Jun 09, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-09 12:37:20-04

DENVER — The Denver Rescue Mission says the number of people in need has reached new heights not seen in its 131 years of operation.

“I haven't had a good night's sleep in months,” said a 44-year-old man experiencing homelessness in Denver. He asked not to be identified.

The man and his wife have been homeless since March after struggling to make rent. He is now staying in a rehab facility due to some health issues.

“I’ve had problems with my weight, and my body's just given way,” he said. “I can't walk more than like 200 feet.”

His wife is staying with her parents in a senior community. However, she will soon have to leave.

Once he's released from rehab, the couple will have nowhere to go.

The man told Denver7 he's been calling as many organizations as he can for help, but has discovered that being a couple actually makes it harder.

“I would be like, 'Hey, I need help with this.' And they'd be like, 'How many children in your household?' 'Well, none.' 'Sorry, we can only help couples with children,'” the man said. “Or they would say, 'You have to be a rape survivor or domestic violence survivor or single woman with children.'”

One of the organizations he called was the Denver Rescue Mission.

"We don't currently have shelter, like emergency shelters, for couples,” said Jonathan Soweidy, director of housing stability. “Our residential programs where we have transitional housing opportunities for single families who are looking to get out of homelessness, we're currently at an eight to 10-week wait to get into our programs.”

Soweidy says they've seen an uptick in couples and families needing help.

“There's just not a lot of affordable housing right now in Denver. And so, I think traditionally where two people could make it paying for an apartment is not working as well as it used to be,” said Soweidy.

Denver’s Department of Housing Stability (HOST) says several programs are in the works to help unhoused couples.

“Just yesterday actually, city council's safety committee approved a Safe Parking contract expansion. It's going to add two additional Safe Parking Sites in Denver,” said Sabrina Allie with HOST.

Officials say the is also working on several non-congregate shelter options. One of them will be called Renewal Village at the former Clarion Hotel on West 48th Ave. The city's 2023 budget also includes funds for two other properties that will be used for bridge housing.

"If you want to stay together as a couple, that's been a challenge. So that's one of the reasons we've worked to expand these shelter alternatives,” said Allie.

For the man, he hopes he and his wife can find a place to live soon.

“The loudest squeakiest wheel always gets the oil. So eventually, something's going to happen,” he said.

The HOST says it's in year two of its five-year strategic plan. The goal is to reduce unsheltered homelessness by 50 percent within five years.