Denver’s homeless problem has made headlines recently for various reasons.
Denver Auditor Dennis Gallagher released a report critical of Denver’s Road Home program. It questioned how the $63 million the program has spent over the last 10 years has affected the problem.
Last week, the University of Colorado at Denver released a report that claims that much of the Denver area has criminalized homelessness by passing laws that outlaw many activities like camping and begging.
And finally, the Colorado State Legislature is considering a bill known as a Right to Rest act that would grant certain rights to the homeless to not be discriminated against.
While the media exposure to the problem should help raise awareness, it seems we’re still missing the bigger problem.
When we discussed this issue on Colorado Inside Out recently, I liked what my friend Eric Sondermann had to say, which is that the homeless cannot be looked at as one big monolithic group. Colorado’s homeless include people who are poor and need a job, but also include those with addiction problems, mental health issues and even those who do not wish to live indoors.
The fact of the matter is that until we break down the problem into the various groups that make up the “homeless” we won’t have any shot at solving the problem.
I think most of the headlines we see about the problem point to the fact that real progress isn’t being made mainly because we don’t know how to measure it.
However, if we worked harder as a community to see the homeless as members of those various groups, instead of a monolith, we may have a chance to see progress.
If we can say as a community that we want to provide mental health care for 100 people who are currently homeless, we can measure that success.
If we make treatment for addiction a priority and again, place a number on how many individuals we want to help, we can measure that success.
I do not claim that the process is simple or that solutions are somehow easy to fund.
But what I do believe is that we can finally make some headway on the overall issue of homelessness as soon as we break up the idea in our own collective consciousness that all of these people have the same needs.
This isn’t a revolutionary idea, and clearly not even one I came up with alone, but it is an idea that deserves and needs more discussion in our community.
We need to talk to each other to help those who are needy around us and we need to remember that this big group of people is simply made up of individuals with many different needs.
If we can wrap our heads around that concept, we may be able to finally make some progress.
About The Blogger
– Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Dezzutti is also the host and producer of the Emmy award winning “Colorado Inside Out” on Colorado Public Television.