Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?
Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.
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.
For the first time, all seven counties of metro Denver have banded together to ensure that people who need shelter during severe winter weather will not end up sleeping on the streets.
Despite the increased need — especially in tough economic times — this collaborative network took years to create.
"Seven counties working together is pretty unusual," said Tom Luehrs , executive director of St. Francis Center in Denver, a provider of homeless services.
"There is not necessarily a cooperative effort between county people who are working their own turf and don't want to be told what to do," Luehrs said.
The rising number of homeless in the metro area dwarfs the availability of shelter beds.
During the most recent point-in-time homeless survey, conducted in the Denver metro area Jan. 27, 2009, nearly 1,700 people reported spending the previous night outside on the street, in a car or in an abandoned building.
That night, the low temperatures in the metro area ranged from 3 to 12 degrees.
Currently, there are 37 shelter beds in Jefferson County, which reported 1,242 homeless people in that 2009 survey.
"Of that number, 70 percent were members of families, and 61 percent reported being homeless for that first time," said Linda Barringer, program director at The Family Tree Homelessness Services in Wheat Ridge. "That's huge."
"People don't realize, or understand, the challenges we confront in these suburban counties of Denver," said Virginia Longoria, executive director of ACCESS Housing, which provides homeless services in Adams County.