Help here, help there: Denver’s auditor reports a ‘fragmented’ approach to helping the homeless

Denver Auditor shot 041919Screen Shot 2019-04-19 at 9.51.28 AM

How many cooks can fit in the kitchen?

That age-old question also applies when numerous funders are trying to help the homeless in Denver.

Today, Westword posted a story on a new report from the office of Denver’s auditor about the city’s ineffective approach to help its homeless population. The focus is on  Denver’s Road Home program (it began in 2005), but there’s more.

“The City of Denver has failed to develop an effective strategy and devote enough resources to its efforts to reduce homelessness, a new report from the city’s auditor found. Mayor Michael Hancock says he’s moving quickly to implement the report’s recommendations.

“The 57-page report, issued by Denver Auditor Timothy O’Brien on Thursday, April 18, faulted the city for its ‘fragmented’ approach to homeless services and prevention, in which key responsibilities are spread across different agencies and departments. It found that the lead agency in the city’s homelessness efforts, Denver’s Road Home, is understaffed and lacks the resources necessary for strategic planning and policy development.

“ ‘Homelessness is a high priority issue for Denver,’ the report read. ‘However, we could be using our resources more effectively with possibly better results if we had a comprehensive citywide strategy, defined leadership and more specific goals to define success.’ “

Meanwhile, the mayor has announced the creation of a department of housing and homelessness. Homeless people need a home because of a  because of a lack of available affordable housing, or mental health issues, or they moved here thinking they’d find a place to live but wound up in a city that has been a boomtown for several years. And the gentrification generated by redevelopment in parts of the city has not helped.

I am no genius, but I’ve been wondering how myriad government programs and non-profit groups can work together as effectively as possible.

The auditor’s report could not have been more timely, considering that the upcoming municipal election on May 7 includes a controversial ballot measure – Initiative 300 – that is focused on homelessness in Denver. You can find information on Initiative 300 online at  .  It helps to read the entire proposed ordinance, with comments pro and con, and not just the ballot title.

And there is the irony that the formal announcement about this new department will be made during today’s fifth annual Denver Housing Forum with the title of Innovate! A Solutions Forum on Housing.  How interesting that a new department emerges about two weeks before the election, toward the end of the mayor’s eighth year in office.

Below are several links, beginning with coverage by Westword,The Denver Post, and Denverite, including a link to the auditor’s report.

Click to access Homeless-Services_April-2019.pdf

Auditor finds Denver homelessness strategy is “fragmented and understaffed”

Two links to Denver Post stories, on the city’s housing assistance program (not a lot), and a story from last year about the problems with deed restrictions on affordable homes. This will jog your memory: “… the city discovered more than 300 homes, nearly a quarter of the total, may be in violation of the covenants. Owners, despite receiving a discount and income-qualifying for the program when they bought, failed to disclose the covenant restrictions when it came time to sell.” There were, though, extenuating circumstances in this situation.

Denver keeps chipping away at covenant violations on affordable homes

Finally, Erik Solivan posted an op-ed on Westword on April 14. The original profile on Solivan dates from late December 2017 when he was the city’s director of the Office of HOPE. He resigned two months later. Yes.


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