Key: Scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the most effective.
- What It Is: This strategy places people in long-term housing before tackling issues like job placement and substance abuse treatment.
- Will It Work? Using Housing First methods, Salt Lake City has shrunk its number of chronically homeless individuals. Unfortunately, the reasons why people fall into homelessness—loss of a job, divorce, medical emergency—are unabated. Plus, Denver has a dearth of affordable housing options.
- Rating: 4 out of 10
Social Impact Bonds
- What It Is: Private investors foot the bill for public programs—like homeless housing—and get a cut of the money that the programs save the city. (Denver currently spends up to $38,000 a year per homeless person on jail costs, health care, and other city services.)
- Will It Work? Social impact bonds—backed by the likes of the Rockefeller Foundation and Goldman Sachs—have paid for prisoner recidivism initiatives in New York City and pre-K classes in Chicago. Denver’s version will start providing services early next year.
- Rating: 8 out of 10
The Camping Ordinance
- What It Is: A controversial 2012 city ordinance made it a crime for a person to lie down with a cover in a public space.
- Will It Work? You can avoid a citation by simply sleeping upright or without a blanket. The Colorado Right to Rest Act—a homeless bill of rights—sought to undo the ban at the state Legislature last session but failed. It will probably be reintroduced in the 2016 session. (In August, the U.S. Department of Justice spoke against a similar ban in Idaho, saying that it’s wrong to criminalize “the act” of being homeless.)
- Rating: 1 out of 10
Stout Street Health Center
- What It Is: The $35 million, 53,192-square-foot Stout Street Health Center opened last year with an integrated health-care model, meaning staffers work in teams to handle patients’ medical, dental, vision, and mental health concerns, often in a single visit.
- Will It Work? Behavioral health disorders account for 69 percent of hospitalizations among homeless adults, so it’s possible that SSHC may be able to deliver on its expectation of reducing annual costs for taxpayer-supported services by 30 percent.
- Rating: 7 out of 10
- What It Is: The Denver Street Outreach Collaborative formed in 2005 with the purpose of meeting people where they are—underneath bridges, on street corners—to address needs and connect them with local services.
- Will It Work? While these workers are veritable saints, their success is difficult to measure because their efforts are sometimes duplicated in interactions with the same chronically homeless people or “travelers” (people in Denver for a short time). However, in 2014, the collaborative helped find housing for 307 individuals.
- Rating: 3 out of 10
Better Way to Give Program
- What It Is: Blue parking-meter-esque fixtures collect loose change to tackle homelessness. The meters generated nearly $34,000 in 2014 (in corporate and individual sponsorships and donations). Several meters and change receptacles near security checkpoints in DIA collected an additional $88,000.
- Will It Work? The downtown meters have raised more than $207,000 for Denver’s Road Home since 2007. That sounds pretty good—until you consider it is a tiny part of what it costs to fund DRH.
- Rating: 5 out of 10
- What It Is: This monthly newspaper is sold on the streets by people experiencing poverty or homelessness. Vendors buy the newspapers for 50 cents each, sell them for $2 a pop, and keep the difference.
- Will It Work? Since 2007, more than 4,200 people have sold the Voice to earn incomes and establish work histories. The paper reports on poverty and local news and features writing from people experiencing homelessness.
- Rating: 10 out of 10