See the homelessness issue up close through the eyes of an Arvada police officer in this ride along video.
Homelessness in Our Community
Homelessness is becoming more prevalent in all Colorado communities, including Arvada. Recent data shows that families experiencing homelessness are increasing in number faster than any other group. In Jefferson County, 77% of all homeless are families with children who have been forced out of their homes due to lack of affordable housing, and contrary to popular belief, many of them have incomes but do not earn enough money to cover housing. Many others experiencing homelessness are veterans and some homeless individuals have mental health issues or addictions. While the reasons for homelessness vary, policymakers agree that homelessness will continue to increase.
How the City is Responding
The City of Arvada is enlisting staff from all departments and elected officials to respond to the homelessness situation in Arvada. Arvada City Council has adopted several strategic results to address issues surrounding homelessness. One of which was accomplished in August, when City Manager Mark Deven presented recommendations to Jefferson County elected officials, developed in collaboration with all Jefferson County managers, committing all cities and the County to implement services such as affordable housing, supportive housing for the chronically homeless and emergency shelters for severe winter weather.
Current Initiatives Include:
- In partnership with existing regional partners and the local faith based community, the City is implementing a severe weather shelter network beginning in December 2017 and running through March 2018. The network includes a guest check-in location for transport to the church-run shelters. Both the check-in location and the shelters are staffed by volunteers.
- A partnership with the Arvada Community Food Bank on a program called Bridges to Opportunity which connects the homeless with needed resources.
- The creation of outreach teams with City staff, social workers and mental health workers working to achieve the goals through Heading Home Jeffco.
- Partnering with outside agencies to provide outreach to Arvada's homeless and offer resources.
- Distributing a Homelessness Resource Guide.
Enforcement of Code Violations and Homelessness
The Arvada Police Department is actively addressing public safety hazards sometimes related to homelessness by following the same standard procedures for enforcement of code and ordinance violations, regardless of the status of the individual involved. Applicable City ordinance make the following behaviors illegal, for example:
- Erection of tents or buildings in public parks without a permit
- Urination and defecation in public
- Disorderly conduct
- Obstruction of sidewalks and crosswalks
It is important to remember that it is not illegal to be homeless, and those experiencing homelessness have the same rights as all other citizens. When it comes to enforcing upon some of the behaviors associated with the homeless population, the City must apply enforcement tools in a fair and unbiased manner. The fact that there are ordinances that prohibit these behaviors does not necessarily stop the behaviors from occurring. Many people who are ticketed do not change their behavior, and courts are not always capable of responding to all the needs of those experiencing homelessness. This cycle of enforcement and re-violation actually costs cities and taxpayers a great deal more money than working to find solutions.
How You Can Help
The homelessness issue causes many people to be torn between compassion and the desire to push the problem to some other community. But the bottom line is homelessness and the problems associated with it are issues that affect us all. The public, private and non-profit communities must work together to contribute to solutions. Please visit our Severe Weather Shelter webpage for information regarding some of the most immediate assistance opportunities. For other community resources that are available to at risk populations, visit community-resources.
City Manager's Office, 720-898-7500.