Aurora approves pledge to regional effort to reduce homelessness


AURORA | After a week of debate and public back and forth, the Aurora City Council has decided to join a pledge to reduce homelessness across the metroplex by working with the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative using the Built for Zero framework.

Three Aurora City Councilmembers — Dave Gruber, Marsha Berzins and Francoise Bergan — opposed the pledge during Monday’s meeting. Gruber said he was concerned the agreement would mean the city is submitting a “blank check” to the cause.

Neither the resolution nor pledge commit the city to any expense or action.

Berzins also specifically cited cost concerns during a study session a few months ago, though any spending would have to be approved by the full city council.

Sixteen cities in the metro region, Jefferson County, the state, and Metro Mayors Caucus have all agreed to the pledge, which says that the municipalities agree:

1. Homelessness is an issue we should address as a community and together, and we see work that makes sense to coordinate and achieve as a region as homelessness does not end at a city or county border. 

2. The coordination with the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative on Built for Zero is how my community can help coordinate its local planning on homelessness regionally to generate reductions in homelessness. 

3. I commit to help paving the way for this work to continue at the local level. This may look like encouraging my community to utilize the Homeless Management Information System which will help us all get to real-time data, participating in (or appointing a designee) local briefing groups, or helping remove barriers to the work.” 

The Metro Denver Homeless Initiative helps coordinate services for the region’s homeless residents, coordinates the Point-In-Time study and collects data for the state’s annual Homelessness Report, among other duties.

At last week’s study session, MDHI Director of Development Jaime Rife told the city council there is a unique opportunity right now to address homelessness because of “federal funds flying into the region and state.”

Proponents of the pledge have highlighted the framework’s dedication to data-backed decision making, but in a social media post last week Mayor Mike Coffman, who posed as “Homeless Mike” earlier this year and shared his experience exclusively with CBS4, said he worried 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.”

“In my view, the reality is that the more services you provide for the homeless, without any requirement placed on them to change their behaviors, the more homelessness you will get,” he continued in the post, saying he supports providing temporary shelter to people if they agree to programs that help with sobriety and job training. 

Councilmember Nicole Johnston replied to the mayor’s post in a Sentinel guest column.

“Data driven and evidence based policy is what we should be focusing on, not political rhetoric,” she wrote. “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.”

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Debra MacKillop
Debra MacKillop
1 year ago

Fire Coffman. All a publicity stunt, only released his thoughts on major news broadcast, clueless about data, success of main homelessness tool Housing First, showed contempt for homeless by pulling a stunt and lying to them, cozying up to help his own downward political career after losing in Congress. Pays no attention to experts working in this area for years, advocating for homeless and helping them get self-sufficient, like I did for years in Denver as a social worker at The Gathering Place. So tired of inexperienced, unqualified, data/science deniers who won’t do the work to learn, telling us their gut tells them something and we should make policy based on it to the detriment of most vulnerable among us.

1 year ago

Your declarations of success for the Housing First model do not make it true. Nor does repeating it. Housing First was the model for Hickenlooper’s failed 10-year Road Home. Did he eliminate homelessness in Denver? Look around. The sad reality is that people like you enable human failure. The cynic might say, to perpetuate your livelihood. More graciously, we simply don’t have the same measure of success.

1 year ago

Tough subject by one that needs acion