(This article is periodically under revision)
They are all around us. We just don’t see them. No, this isn’t a piece on aliens from outer-space. We are talking about the non-obvious homeless folks we pass every day. The young gal on the RTD, taking her kids to school – who then spends the rest of the day on the bus to stay out of the cold. The young guy at the library using the computer in an attempt to find a job, wishing he could hide under the table to stay out of the night’s cold and danger. The woman who ducks into a shop entrance to get out of the rain or snow, and wonders if this might be the night she doesn’t make it through. These are real people. You see them on campus with their backpacks, trying to blend in with the college crowd. None of them want to be on the street. None of them want to be outcasts. None want to see the ridicule and rejection in your eyes, once you see past the ‘disguise’. Or regaled with the oft heard dismissal, ‘Just get a job!’
But who are we actually talking about when using that all-encompassing term ‘the homeless’? We’re talking about folks who in the past earned their living as truck drivers, construction workers, bankers, IT Geeks, waiters and waitresses, painters, sales people, office staff and managers, Human Resource folk, telephone repairmen/women, customer service reps, college students; you can name almost any profession and there will be a segment of the homeless population who were once, in happier times, employed or enrolled in it.
Do we have these folks around us in Thornton, in Adams County? We may think of homelessness as a downtown Denver problem. And for sure it is. However, it surprises us when we are told that there are almost 3,000 homeless men, women and children in Adams County. That’s up from around 1,200 in 2009.
Here’s the kicker, there are only 60 shelter beds available in Adams County programs. CWC adds another 20. On top of that, while other shelters provide shelter for single moms with kids, or families, CWC is the only shelter that provides beds for single men and women. 80 beds for 3,000 people! Is there still a need to provide for the homelss? You betcha.
Over the last season (Oct 2011/Mar 2012) CWC averaged housing 14 people per night. A total of 70 people (including 21 children) were served. 574 volunteers contributed 11,000 hours. During the past three seasons 317 guests have been sheltered. While this may not seem to amount to a dent in the staggering needs out there, for some of our guests it was literally life-saving.
Some may ask is the effort worth it when so few are touched.