Denver's Homeless Population Grows

December 10 2004, 9:00 AM

It's warm in my house. How about yours? This season, give a thought to the homeless whose numbers are growing in Denver. For the first time, the number of homeless persons in the metropolitan area will exceed 11,000. Why?

John Parvensky, president of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, said the problem stems from a confluence of state and federal budget woes, the rise in lower-wage jobs and lack of affordable housing in one of the nation's more expensive real estate and rental markets.

This year's homeless include a greater number of the "working poor" and persons who are homeless for the first time. There is no relief on the horizon. How's this for a startling statistic?

Parvenksy tied it directly to wages and cost of living, saying that a person making minimum wage would need to work 108 hours a week just to afford the rent on a two-bedroom apartment.

The problem is too big to be left to politicians. Wouldn't it be nice if the city's business community would kick in? Here's an idea that was first proposed in san Francisco that seems ideal for Denver, with its restaurant-owning mayor. How about a 1 percent surcharge on all restaurant meals over $50 that would go towards city homeless programs? Few patrons would likely object and it's an idea that John Hickenlooper ought to be able to sell to his fellow restaurateurs. Helping the homeless is going to take cash as well as caring. We can all help. The homeless need clothing for children and adults, computers, and cars to help get them back on their feet. They need skills to get jobs. Transitional services. Intake services. Referral services. All are necessary. Until we address the root cause of homelessness, it's not going to get any better.