Homelessness is one of those issues that is never fully resolved. While many cities try to implement programs to help the needy, others take a different approach and attempt to make their very existence illegal in order to chase them out and stop them from using the resources of the municipality in question. But the latter approach seems to actually be costing more money rather than less, if the latest study out of the University of Denver is any indication.
The study, which looked at data from 2010-2014 in six of Colorado’s largest cities, found that enforcement of ordinances cost the taxpayers upwards of $5 million and had little to no impact on getting people off of the streets. Additionally, the report indicated that not only are the laws often counterproductive, but many may actually be unconstitutional and single out homeless people who are simply trying to survive.
Homelessness in Denver has been a particularly hot issue as of late, as the city grows at unprecedented rates thanks to mass immigration from around the nation and beyond. Much of the growth has been attributed to the legal marijuana industry, though it began before that. To be sure, the legal pot industry has accelerated the process, which has many in the city concerned about housing costs and the ruination of historic neighborhoods in favor of cheaply built and gaudy housing. With growth and housing costs increasing, homelessness has also increased to numbers heretofore unseen in the Mile High City.
Rather than addressing the issue of homelessness directly, many in power prefer to try to sweep it under the rug, or try to completely force homeless people out of their cities entirely. Many laws outlawing panhandling, begging, and even sleeping outdoors have been implemented. Making matters worse are wealthy neighbors who attempt to shut down shelters, such as the Lawrence Street Community Center addition to the Denver Rescue Mission, forcing vulnerable people out into the cold. In the case of the Lawrence Street facility, a lengthy court battle was required to even open the doors to people. Another measure was recently passed getting another 250 people shelter, though that too is woefully insufficient.
The report goes on to point out that “if taxpayer dollars were redirected to address root causes of homelessness, local governments would save hundreds of thousands of dollars on enforcement and could begin to end the ‘revolving door’ of homeless individuals circulating through the criminal justice system.”
You can read the entire report here.