Northglenn city council voted 7-0 on March 28 to extend the old recreation center winter housing program through Aug. 31.
“I think this has truly been an impactful pilot program,” said Northglenn Mayor Pro Tem Jenny Wilford.
According to Rupa Venkatesh, the Assistant to the City Manager, the program was supposed to end on March 31, but since the old recreation center will be vacant until August, city staff asked for an extension.
As well, Adams County agreed to fund the extension, which was $520,689. The Denver Rescue Mission will continue to operate the program and Northglenn’s Crisis Response Unit will still provide case management.
As of March 28, two program participants are fully housed, two have identified housing and seven identified housing support, which can be transitional housing or reconnecting with family or friends.
The winter housing program has 20 full-time participants and is connected to appropriate daytime activities, such as having a job, training for a job, working with counselors, and others. As well, it includes dinner and breakfast and case management.
Between Dec. 15 and March 9, there have been 84 individual participants. Five beds are reserved for the police department to be used as emergency drop-offs and the department did that with 56 different individuals. Of those 56 people, 11 of those individuals became participants.
As of March 21, five were assisted in reuniting with family members.
Weather, work factors
The program aims to serve those left out by the Severe Weather Action Plan, a county program adopted in 2020 to help people experiencing unsheltered homelessness.
“People who are working went to work before 10 o’clock in the morning and are getting off of work after 2 p.m. in the afternoon have lost out on the chance to secure shelter for the night,” Jessica Hulse, the Crisis Response Unit Program Manager, said at a previous meeting.
The intake hours for the SWAP are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Those experiencing homelessness come to the program in the morning and room distribution occurs around 1 p.m. Since working folks miss these intake hours, the new program is designed to accommodate those folks.
According to Hulse, homelessness in Adams County increased between 40 and 45 percent since the COVID pandemic. No emergency shelter currently exists to connect people experiencing homelessness during cold nights. The closest one rests 20 miles outside of Northglenn.
Participants must be 18 years or older, have employment or a community connection. Connections can include attending day school, a day center, or staying with friends or family. Families with children will be referred to Adams 12 Five Star schools which can provide resources through a federal act.
“One of the ongoing complaints (of the program) was it was going to increase crime,” said City Councilor Becky Brown at a previous meeting. Hulse said that there have been no calls for service or calls for safety due to the program.
Places to go
Mayor Meredith Leighty noted misconceptions among businesses in Thornton that the participants of the program linger around during the day, and Leighty explained they have a place to go.
She said that no complaints from nearby Northglenn businesses have been made.
“I’m an enthusiastic yes for the extension, but I have my sights set on where do we find the permanent, ongoing duplication of this,” Leighty said.
Northglenn City Councilor Becky Brown asked if the city did enough.
“There are so many young people out there,” she said. “There’s more to it than just homelessness that I wish we could figure out a way we can help.”
Venkatesh also expressed gratitude for the community support the program received. During the 97 day duration of the program, dinner and breakfast has been donated to the residents, 91 times.
For those looking to get involved, contact Paula Ordaz at email@example.com and go to Northglenn’s website to provide a meal. Needed donations are gas cards, new underwear for men and women, gloves, Safeway gift cards and daily planners/calendars.