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Homeless in Denver, USA

  11 June 2019

(Originally published: 07/2009) Denver’s Road Home (DRH) is the name of a programme launched in 2005, whose aim it is to end homelessness in the urban centre of Denver within ten years. Mayor John W. Hickenlooper initiated this ambitious goal following the US Conference of Mayors (an annual conference of all mayors of cities with more than 30 000 citizens) in 2003. After hearing that homelessness and the resulting costs were rising rapidly from year to year, he assembled a commission to analyse the current situation in Denver and to develop a plan to improve it. Ingo Woelke discovers more.  - By Ingo Woelke

DENVER, USA - Denver's Road Home (DRH) is the name of a programme launched in 2005, whose aim it is to end homelessness in the urban centre of Denver within ten years.

Mayor John W. Hickenlooper initiated this ambitious goal following the US Conference of Mayors (an annual conference of all mayors of cities with more than 30 000 citizens) in 2003. After hearing that homelessness and the resulting costs were rising rapidly from year to year, he assembled a commission to analyse the current situation in Denver and to develop a plan to improve it.

The commission consisted of 41 very different people: Representatives of the city, social workers, businesspeople and people affected by homelessness. Decisions were supposed to be in unison to guarantee that homeless people and owners of hotel chains were sitting next to each other as equals.

An analysis of the situation in Denver showed that there were about 12 000 people without permanent home in the urban centre of Denver. 61 per cent were families with children, 40 per cent had a job and the reason for homelessness was that many were no longer able to afford the rents, which had risen massively. Nevertheless, most people in Denver still adhere to the stereotypical image of the drinking, lazy and bearded homeless person with a trolley full of deposit bottles.

After 18 months, mayor Hickenlooper and the city council launched a plan to improve the situation lastingly in July 2005. The plan includes measures to get long-term homeless people into paid accommodation, as well as preventive measures to help people threatened by homelessness.

Above all, the sum invested in the plan is unique in the USA. Within the first four years, until 2009, 46 million dollars shall be invested. 50 per cent are provided by the state, 25 per cent by organisations and 25 per cent by private contributors.

Usually, public funds are not often provided for social organisations in the US. There is no single state organisation in Denver that cares for homeless people. But the DRH plan also has a very economic background. Firstly, the DRH commission has established that, in Denver, around 40 000 dollars had been spent to keep a person on the street, instead of investing 15 000 dollars in their support - 10 00 for personal care and 5 000 for rent. So, in the long run, Denver's Road Home is supposed to minimize the costs, if moral reasons are not enough already.

Secondly, the DRH plan is supposed to help make the city look better and more interesting for investors by keeping homeless people of the streets. The booming city of Denver already has enacted several laws in the last years, which strictly prohibit sitting in front of shops or lying in parks.

The plan is now in its third year, functions very well and helps a lot of people. But it is also accompanied with Gentrification, which is a reason for new homelessness.

 

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