Douglas County Homeless Engagement Assistance and Resource Team (HEART) began working in October of 2022 to help people experiencing homelessness in Douglas County find the resources they need.
Today, there are fewer people living on the streets of Douglas County than there were in 2022. Why? Because every morning three expert resource navigators and three law enforcement officers wake up on a mission.
Preliminary Point in Time data indicates the number of people living unsheltered in Douglas County is down 46%. Douglas County Commissioner Abe Laydon and Sheriff Darren Weekly attribute this reduction to the efforts of HEART, a new program focused on helping people experiencing homelessness in Douglas County.
Laydon and Weekly shared the preliminary numbers and honored HEART Thursday morning during a monthly Douglas County Homeless Initiative Executive Committee meeting.
“Our compassionate approach is working,” said Commissioner Laydon, Chair of the Board of Douglas County Commissioners. “When we put our hearts – and our resources – together, we can proactively get help to people who need and want it.”
Every year, Douglas County participates with six other counties and the City of Aurora to provide Point in Time data to the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative. This year, the count was taken on Jan. 30.
According to preliminary data, there were 57 people experiencing homelessness in Douglas County on Jan. 30. Of those, 27 were unsheltered and 30 were in temporary housing. Overall, there was a 27% reduction in homelessness, and specifically a 46% reduction in those living unsheltered in Douglas County compared to 2022. These preliminary findings will be submitted to the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative to be validated and finalized later this year.
HEART stands for Homeless, Engagement, Assistance and Resources Team. It’s a partnership among the County and local law enforcement to connect those experiencing homelessness with resources.
HEART Navigators are subject matter experts, often with experience in behavioral and mental health or case management. They proactively and directly interact with those experiencing homelessness in a compassionate way. They gather information on needs, assess vulnerability, provide complete case management, and make referrals to appropriate community services.
Partnered with law enforcement when safety is a concern, this community approach helps ensure people experiencing homelessness do not end up in emergency rooms or jail, but rather are directed to community services.
“Homelessness is an issue that affects many people in our community,” said Sheriff Weekly. “It is important for law enforcement to be involved in finding solutions that will help those facing homelessness while keeping our communities safe.”
Other data indicates improvements specifically for Veterans.
“Part of our regional work to end homelessness includes movement toward complete, real-time data for Veterans,” Dr. Jamie Rife, Executive Director of the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative, told the Douglas County Homeless Initiative Executive Committee Thursday. “Last year, Douglas County showed the highest rate of improvement on the scorecard tracking how the County identifies, serves and houses Veterans.”
To watch a recording of the press conference, visit our YouTube channel.