Denver’s Homeless Population Spiked Over 30% In One Year, Annual Count Finds

More people are homeless for the first time.
DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 6 : People start packing their belongings near the intersection of 13th Ave. and Logan St. in Denver, Colorado on Tuesday. October 6, 2020. Denver city crews swept the tents of encampment site. (Photo by Hyoung Chang/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
Hyoung Chang/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Denver’s homeless population jumped more than 30% this year, the city’s annual count showed.

Denver now has a total of 9,065 homeless people, up 31.7% over 2022, according to the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative’s 2023 “Point in Time” count, released Monday.

The count was performed on January 30 and includes both people staying at shelters and those sleeping on the streets.

The number of people who are homeless for the first time also jumped more than 50%. A total of 3,996 people — two in five — homeless people in Denver are homeless for the first time this year, the count found, up from 2,634 people last year. The number of first-time homeless families also jumped dramatically to 1,316 families this year, up from 597 families last year, a more than 120% increase.

Men were overrepresented among the homeless. About 62% of the homeless population are male, compared to just under 37% who are women, according to this year’s count.

The Initiative is designated by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to coordinate the municipal response to homelessness in Denver.


While the “Point in Time” count only counted just over 9,000 homeless people, the number is actually close to 28,000 over the course of the year, said Dr. Jamie Rife, executive director for the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative.

“We need to keep moving towards understanding who is experiencing homelessness in real-time and by name, so our response is as effective as possible,” Rife said.

He added that the pandemic and inflation are partly to blame for the homelessness count’s dismal results.

“While the world is no longer in a pandemic, we are beginning to feel the full economic fallout of the COVID-19 era,” Rife said. “With COVID-19 relief funds for the prevention of homelessness coming to an end, as well as many other COVID-era protections, we’ve seen a sharp increase in the number of eviction filings as more households struggle to pay rent. This, paired with inflation and the increased cost of housing, is resulting in many people falling into homelessness and many being unable to obtain housing.”

Last week, Denver’s new mayor Mike Johnston declared a state of emergency on homelessness before he was even mayor for 24 hours. The mayor announced a plan to house 1,000 homeless people by the end of the year, which includes building more tiny homes on city property.

Denver is not the only city to see its homelessness problem worsen this year.

San Francisco has been in the throes of a homelessness and drug crisis that has come with rampant crime for years now, and homelessness in the city has only gotten worse since before the pandemic. About 38,000 people are homeless in the Bay Area on a given night, up 35% since 2019. More than 7,000 people are homeless in San Francisco itself.

Crime and open-air drug use often accompany the homeless issue, causing businesses to flee San Francisco’s downtown, where foot traffic has thinned.

The homeless situation is similar in Los Angeles. Homelessness is up 10% in Los Angeles, according to the 2023 Greater Los Angeles homeless count results, released last month. Los Angeles County’s homeless population rose to about 75,518 people, up from 69,144 in 2022, according to the count. In the city of Los Angeles itself, the number of homeless people jumped to about 46,260 people, up from 41,980 people in 2022.

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