While a recent report on homelessness in the metro region showed a sharp increase in homelessness in Broomfield in 2022, local and regional advocates say it’s part of a more complex and nuanced picture facing Broomfield and surrounding communities.
The Metro Denver Homeless Initiative’s 2022 point-in-time count showed that 86 people were staying in shelters or outdoors in Broomfield on Jan. 24, an increase of 60 from the 2020 count of 26 people staying in shelters or outdoors. The 2022 count represents a 230% increase.
But both the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative and local homelessness and housing advocate Marrton Dormish said the point-in-time count has its limits.
Counting the number of people sleeping outside or in shelters on a single night is impacted by variables like weather, participation and volunteers, MDHI Executive Director Jamie Rife said in a statement accompanying the preliminary report. While the point-in-time count gives people a picture of homelessness on a single night, the ultimate goal is to have comprehensive, real-time regional data, Rife said.
Dormish, who is minister of presence, justice and memory at The Refuge in Broomfield, attributes the increase to a different counting method.
In years past, volunteers could only count people who they were able to talk to, but 2022’s count used observation-based counting so that volunteers can count people sleeping in their cars or in tents, even if they’re not able to speak with them.
“It’s not that we have 230% more people who are unhoused or experiencing homelessness than in 2020, it’s that it’s a more accurate count of people who are unhoused,” Dormish said.
Dormish said the actual number of homeless people living in Broomfield is more likely around 200, which would also include people who are staying in hotels, couch-surfing or doubling up in homes.
“The point-in-time count is a tool that helps us get a better picture of homelessness in our community but it is only a tool, not the tool,” Dormish said.
While there was an increase in homelessness as a result of the pandemic, it’s difficult to assess increases or decreases because homelessness is such a fluid thing, Dormish said. People come and go, are able to find stable housing or are on the brink of losing it.
“Hopefully as we’re coming out of (the pandemic,) there are more resources available and Broomfield agencies are being more proactive about applying for those funds,” Dormish said. “The need always outpaces the resources that are available to meet the need, not just in Broomfield but in our region and beyond.”
Dormish, who authored a 250-page book on housing and homelessness in Broomfield this year, said the point-in-time count provides an opportunity for the issue to be front and center.
“Housing and homelessness are inextricably linked, and for those of us who are housed in Broomfield to benefit from the housing market in one breath and allow others to suffer is hypocritical and not acting from the best part of who we are as Broomfielders,” he said.
Additional data from the point-in-time count is expected later this summer, according to the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative.