Homelessness is a Shared Responsibility

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Across the country, communities are facing the challenge of an increasing number of people experiencing homelessness. Wheat Ridge, as well as our neighboring cities, are feeling the impact of this national concern. While many believe police departments have the primary responsibility for responding to complaints about illegal camping, trash and panhandling, managing all of the impacts of people experiencing homelessness is a shared community responsibility and cannot be addressed with just one approach.


There are many misconceptions regarding how law enforcement can respond to homelessness issues. It isn’t illegal to be homeless nor is it illegal to panhandle unless the person is obstructing or interfering with traffic flow. Those experiencing homelessness have the same rights as everyone else as long as they are not committing any crimes. Homelessness is a complex issue and it is important to keep in mind that individuals experiencing homelessness face many challenges that create barriers in everyday life including mental health issues and/or substance misuse. Homelessness also impacts families with children who make up a large segment of those who are homeless, further complicating this difficult issue.


The City is collaborating with Jefferson County and other county municipalities to build regional partnerships in order to assist an ever-increasing number of people experiencing homelessness. Read more

Across the country, communities are facing the challenge of an increasing number of people experiencing homelessness. Wheat Ridge, as well as our neighboring cities, are feeling the impact of this national concern. While many believe police departments have the primary responsibility for responding to complaints about illegal camping, trash and panhandling, managing all of the impacts of people experiencing homelessness is a shared community responsibility and cannot be addressed with just one approach.


There are many misconceptions regarding how law enforcement can respond to homelessness issues. It isn’t illegal to be homeless nor is it illegal to panhandle unless the person is obstructing or interfering with traffic flow. Those experiencing homelessness have the same rights as everyone else as long as they are not committing any crimes. Homelessness is a complex issue and it is important to keep in mind that individuals experiencing homelessness face many challenges that create barriers in everyday life including mental health issues and/or substance misuse. Homelessness also impacts families with children who make up a large segment of those who are homeless, further complicating this difficult issue.


The City is collaborating with Jefferson County and other county municipalities to build regional partnerships in order to assist an ever-increasing number of people experiencing homelessness. Read more

  • Results of the Survey

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    Thank you to all those Wheat Ridge residents who took a recent survey about Homelessness. Here are the results and ways in which you can continue the conversation as we work to address this very complex issue.

    Drawing from your own perspectives and experiences, choose the statement that you most agree with:


    If you agree that the City should be involved in homelessness, what should that role look like? Select all that apply


    Should the City work with regional partners to create a facility where homeless residents could live and receive education, mental health support, and other resources?


    If yes or maybe would you support this facility in your neighborhood?

    A city/county collaborative in Jefferson County has created a proposal to develop two housing navigation centers to help to serve and support residents experiencing a housing crisis in Jefferson County. While the proposal is still in a very early stage of development, the tentative plan is to open a center in north Jeffco and one in central Jeffco. Each location would include a Housing Navigation drop-in resource center, up to 50 bridge housing beds, 35 units of workforce housing, and 40 units of perm anent supportive housing. The centers would provide residents of Jefferson County who are experiencing a housing crisis with an efficient, one-stop service center.

    Finally, survey respondents ranked the priorities for how they would like to see the City spend its resources. Those priorities were identified in order as 1) Mental Health, 2) Food Security, and 3) Drug Use/Misuse 4) Employment, 5) Sheltering, 6) Health, 7) Permanent Housing and 8) Education. We believe our community has more ideas to share on these topics and we are gathering that input on What’s Up Wheat Ridge in the Ideas section. (link)

    This is a complex issue and many respondents expressed strong opinions about how homelessness should be addressed. For some respondents, solutions lie with a more comprehensive focus by local agencies whose mission is to provide food, shelter, mental health services and drug intervention programs. We’d welcome your additional input on the Ideas Section of What’s Up Wheat Ridge. Some respondents indicated that they are willing to offer time, talent and financial support to local organizations already working toward solutions. We invite you to contact Localworks to volunteer for upcoming trash clean up days (weareLocalworks.com), donate items or funds to local organizations (List of Resources).

    As Wheat Ridge City Council continues to review the direction our efforts to address Homelessness will take in Wheat Ridge, we will continue to share information on the City’s website, social media, in the quarterly Connections newsletter, and in our monthly enewsletter Mayor’s Matters (subscribe link).

  • City Activities and Response

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    City Council has prioritized homelessness as a top priority in their strategic plan. Therefore, actions to address issues associated with homelessness will be a focus over the next two years. The work is ongoing to address this very complex issue and here are some of the plans we have underway:

    • Staffing for this spring/summer:
      • Two School Resource Officers and an additional police officer will be working with Crime Prevention Officer Brian Gross as a dedicated homeless team this summer; two park rangers and potentially a third, will provide extra duty on the Greenbelt; the Crash and Traffic Team will move any unallocated time to I-70/Kipling this summer; the City is applying for grants for additional overtime funding to focus on homelessness issues
      • Parks will be hiring additional seasonal staff who are trained and skilled in biohazard cleanups
        • Monthly cleanups are currently scheduled with CDOT; however this may increase to twice a month during the summer if CDOT staff is available.
        • The City is hiring a contractor for twice monthly clean ups in troubled areas to supplement what is already being done by City staff – that contract will start in late May
        • Both Localworks and the Wheat Ridge Chamber of Commerce are coordinating volunteer cleanups. Please see the “Key Dates” section for information.
        • The City will conduct regular assessments on public property, including the Wheat Ridge Greenbelt, and campers will be notified prior to any cleanup. Resources will be provided and assistance from the Homeless Navigator will also be offered.
        • The City street sweeping public rights of way, especially I-70/Kipling and 38th and Wadsworth, weekly
        • The City and CDOT are exploring landscape design options for the four corners at I-70/Kipling to discourage camping
        • The City is contributing more than $200,000 this year to area non-profits and agencies that assist with homelessness, mental health, addiction and family services. In addition, the City will receive additional stimulus funding from Congress through the American Rescue Plan Act which can partly be used to address homelessness issues. Other programs and services to support homelessness such as short-term and long-term housing needs will also be reviewed.
        • City Council has and is continuing to work on the legislative efforts to address issues associated with homelessness
          • In January City Council passed ordinances concerning trespassing and the illegal removal or defacing of notices on public property
          • On May 17, 2021 City Council will be discussing two new potential ordinances concerning pedestrians hindering the flow of traffic and pedestrian use of center medians on roadways
          • Staff is currently working with the City Attorney to draft new legislation to require motels to obtain a separate license to operate and to meet certain standards to remain in compliance with that license
          • Staff is also considering legislation to regulate motels that are operating as extended stay motels without the proper facilities or amenities to do so safely.

    Staff will be providing regular updates to City Council and during public council meetings. Please check the “Key Dates” section and the City website calendar for more information. Members of the public are encouraged to tune in to these meetings to learn more and to continue to provide input. Additionally, an internal Homeless Working Group of City staff from across all departments of the City (Public Works, Communications, Parks and Recreation, the Police Department, the Homeless Navigator, and the City Manager’s Office) meets on a regular basis to coordinate local efforts to address homelessness issues




  • Why is addressing homelessness so complex?

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    The Concept Map graphic illustrates the complexity of Homelessness. At the center are those experiencing homelessness with connecting lines to the agencies who are tasked with responding or providing resources as well as the contributing factors that may provide barriers to finding a pathway out. In order to effectively collaborate on finding solutions, it’s important to first gain an understanding of the issue and ongoing local, county and regional efforts to provide services and support.

    Homelessness is a complex issue and can’t be solved with a single approach. The concept map provides an illustration of some of the more significant issues and agencies who are working together with the community to find solutions to homelessness.

    City/Local Governments

    The City is addressing homelessness with a coordinated, comprehensive approach including the Police, Public Works, and Parks Departments. Some of the specific approaches include regular clean up and trash removal in locations where people experiencing homelessness gather; street sweeping in these areas on a weekly basis; regular cleaning of City-owned bus shelters by a specially-trained and equipped service contractor, and removal of graffiti on City-owned property. Large homeless camps are occasionally reported to the police department and staff work together to determine the best approach for clean-up. Camps sometimes contain biological and other potential hazards so training and the right protective equipment are critical for volunteer groups wishing to assist with cleanup efforts. The City sometimes also uses contracted clean-up crews who are called in to manage the work.

    County

    The City is also collaborating with Jefferson County and other county municipalities to build regional partnerships in order to assist an ever-increasing number of people experiencing homelessness. Jefferson County has developed a Homeless Navigator Program in partnership with several cities. Homeless Navigators work with individuals experiencing homelessness to create goals and a plan of action to exit homelessness, as well as facilitate and support efforts to obtain resources and services.

    Mental Health

    Mental illness and related conditions are a significant factor for many who are experiencing homelessness. Jefferson County has created a Co-Responder program under the leadership of the Jefferson Center, and in partnership with local police agencies, to embed mental health professionals with law enforcement. Co-Responders are trained to quickly recognize mental health issues and help officers de-escalate situations. Currently regional and county mental health resources are limited due to resources and budgetary concerns, however.

    Legislation

    Focus from a legislative standpoint is also critical in efforts to address homelessness. Federal protections extend to freedom of speech and access to public rights of way; however local ordinances have helped provide guidance for municipalities and law enforcement.

    Food Insecurity, Education, Substance Use/Misuse

    Unless people’s basic needs are met such as having access to food and shelter, other concerns including substance use or misuse and mental health become less of a priority while in fact could be significant barriers to a pathway out of homelessness. To address homelessness effectively communities must find ways to approach more holistically by providing access to food, clothing, training/education, and services regarding substance use and mental health counseling and treatment.

    Community Involvement

    Community volunteers attempt to assist those experiencing homelessness by providing food, clothing and by joining community clean-up efforts. These efforts are only short-term measures and to be effective must be incorporated into an overall approach for finding solutions to homelessness.

  • Heading Home

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    Heading Home is a collaboration of individuals, public service, and faith-based organizations from the community determined to end homelessness in Jefferson County. Heading Home is a subcommittee of Jeffco Connections (JC), whose mission is "to establish a collaborative leadership that promotes accountable, efficient, cost-effective, and coordinated systems, in an effort to increase the health and well-being of children, youth, and families in Jefferson County." JC has charged Heading Home with the task of developing an Action plan that addresses homelessness in Jefferson County.

    The vision of Heading Home is to create a systemic response in Jefferson County, Colorado that prevents and ends homelessness whenever possible, and when it cannot be prevented, ensures it is a rare, brief and one-time experience.

    The City of Wheat Ridge is an active member of Heading Home.

    Learn more about Heading Home here: https://www.headinghomejeffco.com/

  • Built For Zero

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    Built for Zero is a methodology, a movement, and proof of what is possible. The movement is made up of more than 80 cities and counties that have committed to measurably ending homelessness, one population at a time. Using data, these communities have changed how local homeless response systems work and the impact they can achieve.

    Fourteen of those communities have ended homelessness for a population by reaching a standard called functional zero. More than half of those cities and counties have achieved reductions in the number of people experiencing chronic and veteran homelessness.

    Together, they are proving that moral courage, data-driven thinking, and a system-wide approach can build a future where homelessness is rare overall and brief when it occurs.

    The Regional Convening on Homelessness in the Denver metro area occurred March 18, 2021. The conversation focused on the role of local planning coordinated at a regional level on homelessness and maximizing resources. It also unveiled the Built for Zero framework as part of a regional effort to create reductions in homelessness. Jefferson County has made significant progress in standing up a Homeless Coordination Teams of which the City of Wheat Ridge is an active member. View the slide deck from the Regional Convening on Homelessness here: https://bit.ly/3lGqvdm

    See the State of Homelessness Report for Metro-Denver here: https://bit.ly/HomelessnessinDenver2020

    Learn more about how Built For Zero works and how to get involved: https://www.joinbuiltforzero.org/


  • Housing First

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    Housing First is a homeless assistance approach that prioritizes providing permanent housing to people experiencing homelessness, thus ending their homelessness and serving as a platform from which they can pursue personal goals and improve their quality of life. This approach is guided by the belief that people need basic necessities like food and a place to live before attending to anything less critical, such as getting a job, budgeting properly, or attending to substance use issues. Additionally, Housing First is based on the theory that client choice is valuable in housing selection and supportive service participation, and that exercising that choice is likely to make a client more successful in remaining housed and improving their life.

  • Homeless Navigator

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    A new county-wide homeless navigation model was launched in 2020, comprised of six municipal and county-based housing navigators who work directly with persons experiencing homelessness or at imminent risk of homelessness. The shared navigator for the cities of Wheat Ridge, Golden and Edgewater began in December 2020.

    The Homeless Navigator's role is to assist those experiencing a housing crisis, find stable housing and obtain the services and resources needed to maintain that housing. They work in partnership with local business communities, constituents, metro-area non-profit providers and government agencies serving the cities of Golden, Edgewater, and Wheat Ridge. While the Homeless Navigator isn’t able to increase available housing resources, they will help people experiencing homelessness identify solutions to complex health and housing challenges and support those who are seeking a path out of homelessness. However, this is not an emergency, on-call position.

    For individuals who are at-risk, already experiencing homelessness or looking for resources and wanting to work towards stable housing, the Homeless Navigator can provide support and assistance.

  • Make a Donation

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    Your donation funds move-in kits, transportation and motel vouchers, housing deposits and hats, mittens and gloves. Donate online here.

    or

    Make checks payable to
    Wheat Ridge Foundation
    Attn: Wheat Ridge Homeless Navigator
    c/o Wheat Ridge Rec Center
    4005 Kipling St.
    Wheat Ridge, CO 80033