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Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Shelter space sparse for solo homeless women in Denver - The Denver Post

Shelter space sparse for solo homeless women in Denver - The Denver Post

On Monday night, when the temperature dropped to 5 degrees in metro Denver, as many as 35 solo homeless women were turned away from city shelters.

Although the number of unaccompanied homeless women in the metro area has tripled since 2007 — to 1,606 from 552, according to the 2009 Metro Denver Homeless Initiative's point-in-time survey — there are only 241 shelter beds for solo women available in Denver.

Emergency-shelter beds "are extremely limited for women," said Geoff Bennett, director of the Samaritan House. "There are many more men's beds than there are beds for women."

When the beds fill up, some of the women may receive motel vouchers, but they must meet certain criteria. And if they don't, they must fend for themselves.

On some cold days, they go to The Gathering Place — a homeless resource center on High Street, near East Colfax Avenue — to work the phones, looking for a place to bunk.

On Tuesday afternoon, facing a forecast overnight low of minus 5, Laurallee Rucker said she was thinking about getting arrested on a misdemeanor so she'd have a warm place to stay.

Bernadette Ortega said she had slept on the street for the past three nights of single-digit temperatures, huddled in a cardboard box outside a downtown church.

On Tuesday afternoon, unable to find a bed for the night, she panhandled on Colfax, trying to get $42 for a hotel room.

"It's really messed up," Ortega said, frustrated at her inability to find shelter. "No matter how early you get up, whoever you call, the beds are already full."

For the first time, the city this year funded 15 overflow emergency beds at The Delores Project, the city's largest shelter for solo women.

Women who can't get an emergency bed may be eligible for motel vouchers. But not every woman qualifies. Some women are on a do-not-readmit list because they have caused problems in the past. And experts said the vouchers are available only to people who have lived in Denver for 60 days.

Each person is limited to 12 nights of motel vouchers annually, although "we're not going to be hard and fast with that on a night like tonight," said Denver Human Services spokeswoman Jamie Glennon. "We are trying to do everything possible to get these women connected to services. We want to make sure these women are indoors during the cold weather."

1 comment:

Denver Human Services said...

Since this bitter cold weather snap, Denver’s Road Home and Denver Human Services have received multiple inquiries regarding shelter for the homeless. We wanted to pass along this information regarding our plans and what we have been doing to provide shelter.

We want to reiterate Denver’s Road Home and Denver Human Services commitment to working with our providers, partners and the community to make sure every homeless man, woman, child and family have a safe and warm place to stay.

According to Denver’s area shelters, there were 15 open beds on Monday and Tuesday night at the Volunteers of America motel, which women and families can access when regular beds are filled, and sufficient beds for men and families at our overflow shelters. We are working to connect anyone having trouble finding shelter with these resources as there is no reason any man, woman or child should have slept outside last night.

Our community partners are committed to referring any homeless individual they cannot provide shelter for to either Denver Human Services Outreach Team or to our Denver Street Outreach Collaborative to help them find a safe and warm place to stay. When a shelter for a woman or family is filled to capacity, our partners will refer them to Denver Human Services or the Samaritan House for a motel voucher. Today, all of our providers and outreach workers confirmed they gave motel vouchers to anyone who requested one that didn’t have a place to stay last night. We have doubled our efforts today to be sure this information is accurately conveyed to anyone that is being turned away from a shelter that is filled to capacity.

Opening an overflow shelter is not dependent on weather; rather Denver opens our overflow shelters when our nightly shelters are filled to capacity. Denver overflow shelters have been open since Nov. 13, 2009 because our regular shelters have been at capacity.

Denver remains committed to finding shelter for everyone who needs it throughout this cold spell, even those who typically don’t qualify for shelter in Denver County, due to residency requirements, violence violations or other circumstances. We want to connect them to a safe and warm place to stay during these cold nights.

We have a total of 19 street outreach workers who are on the streets from 7 a.m .- 10 p.m. working closely with the Denver Police Department, Denver Downtown Partnership and our providers to reach out to hard to reach populations and encourage them to come indoors.

In addition to regular beds, Denver’s current overflow beds for the homeless include:

For men:

- 98 overflow mats at the Samaritan House

- 100 cots available at the Denver Rescue Mission

- 100 beds at Crossroads

For women:

- 241 regular shelter beds and an additional 15 overflow beds at Delores Project

- 5 beds at Theodora House

- When this space fills, Denver will issue motel vouchers.

For families:

- 6 families can be accommodated in overflow at the Lambuth Center

- If those fill, we will issue motel vouchers.

We are continually working to ensure everyone who wants to sleep inside can do so.

We encourage anyone who needs a safe and warm place stay in the City and County of Denver to call Mile High United Way’s 2-1-1 or contact our Homeless Outreach Coordinator, Katie Symons at (303) 888-3045.

Best regards,

Jamie Van Leeuwen, PhD
Executive Director
Mayor’s Office of Community Impact
Denver's Road Home
Chair, Office of Drug Strategy