As a concerned community member, advocate, council member and chairperson of the Housing Redevelopment and Neighborhood Services policy committee, I feel compelled to address the continued mischaracterizations and over simplification of issues facing people experiencing homelessness made by Mayor Mike Coffman.
Yesterday, Mayor Coffman made statements on social media denigrating Permanent Supportive Housing solutions and wanting requirements to “become sober or get a job” in order to receive homelessness services. He continued with misinformed generalizations as if he is the expert in this area. He is not.
Data driven and evidence based policy is what we should be focusing on, not political rhetoric. The Housing First approach is one evidence based policy supported by studies and peer reviewed articles that recognizes trauma experienced by people experiencing homelessness. Housing First includes permanent supportive housing services that meet the person and their life of trauma, where they are. Then begin the healing in a home.
Numerous studies have documented the costs and benefits of supportive housing in the United States. Permanent housing Services reduces the use of publicly funded crisis services, including jails, hospitalizations, and emergency departments.
We won’t end homelessness using one approach. The City’s Housing Strategy includes fostering a balanced and sustainable housing portfolio in Aurora, preserving the long-term affordability of existing housing stock, expanding the inventory of housing options throughout Aurora, strengthening the City’s capacity of addressing housing issues, supporting protections for homeowners and renters and strengthening the local economy and expanding employment opportunities.
Mayor Coffman’s stated that, “the majority (of council), with the support of our staff, are moving in the direction of adopting solutions that will ultimately increase the problem of homelessness rather than decrease it.” This is insulting on many levels. I can handle his criticism of me any day of the week, but don’t attack our professional staff who have the technical expertise he does not.
I am proud of the policies staff have recommended as well as the majority of city council’s support. This includes the pledge that Aurora and eight other cities are taking that states that homelessness is an issue, that we will coordinate with the Metro Denver Homelessness Initiative on Built for Zero (getting the homelessness population to a functional zero), that we will be innovative and pave the way moving forward on homelessness prevention and services.
Working regionally, using evidence-based policies and ignoring the ill-informed statements of Mayor Coffman is how we can achieve success.
Nicole Johnston is an Aurora City Councilmember and represents Ward II. She is chairperson of the Housing Redevelopment and Neighborhood Services Committee.