Jimmy Sengenberger’s Take on Denver’s Homelessness Crisis
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Jimmy Sengenberger’s Take on Denver’s Homelessness Crisis

Denver is facing a serious crisis as homelessness, drug addiction, and mental health challenges collide, especially in the Denver-metro area. This problem is not just about numbers; behind every statistic, there’s a person with a story of struggle and despair.

Denver, with nearly 6,000 homeless individuals, is now the third-highest city in terms of homelessness increase, following New York and Los Angeles. Tragically, one in every 21 homeless Denverites lost their lives in 2022, with drug overdoses claiming 56% of them.

The connection between homelessness and mental health and substance abuse is clear. Simply providing shelter and services isn’t enough. Open-air drug use and escalating violence plague the streets, posing risks to public safety.

Former Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen warns that strategies like “harm reduction” might unintentionally fuel addictions rather than encouraging treatment. The proposed HB24-1028, allowing supervised drug use sites, raises concerns about enabling addiction.

Residents and businesses are increasingly alarmed by the situation. Drug use, violence, and homelessness affect public transportation, causing disruptions for commuters and straining resources like RTD, which struggles with staffing shortages.

While initiatives like HB24-1313 aim to create affordable housing near transit hubs, the persistent issues of crime, drug use, and homelessness threaten to undermine these efforts.

Shelter alone isn’t the solution. Services and treatment are crucial, as emphasized by Councilwoman Flor Avidrez. The mayor’s office’s plan to provide mental health and substance abuse services is a positive step, but it must include mandatory screenings and treatment.

Security measures, like those implemented at converted shelters, are essential but fall short of addressing root causes. Denver needs comprehensive solutions that tackle underlying issues like mental health and substance abuse.

The current crisis disproportionately affects vulnerable citizens and undermines citywide recovery efforts. Despite allocating significant funds to combat homelessness, City Hall’s decision to cut the police department budget raises concerns about prioritizing public safety.

Denver must change course swiftly to address this multifaceted crisis effectively. It’s time for decisive action to ensure the well-being and safety of all residents.

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