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Homeless share stories on day for metro survey

Point-in-time effort sends volunteers out to conduct tally of people

Posted

“I don't smoke, don't drink — rent's too high,” said Kevin Murphy, a 56-year-old homeless man who spends time in the Englewood area. “I'm saving up money.”

Murphy is one of the dozen or so homeless individuals who came to the Faith Community Center church by bus from Giving Heart, a homeless service center in Englewood, on the night of Jan. 29 when volunteers and agencies spread out to count how many homeless people stay in the seven-county Denver metro area, part of the national Point-in-Time survey.

“My goal, instead of living month-to-month, is to save up six months' rent,” said Murphy, who grew up in Littleton and works at a church near Bemis Public Library there. After living with another person and paying rent for five years in the Littleton area, rising rent pushed him out, and he's been on the street for a year bouncing between different shelters.

“Wherever I can find a place to stay at night,” Murphy said.

He's used services at Giving Heart, where people in need can eat lunch, use a computer lab, receive mail and fill out paperwork for government assistance, but he says the area lacks overnight shelters.

“In Englewood and Littleton, there are really no overnight shelters" unless it's severely cold out, Murphy said.

MORE: Survey night in Adams County and Jefferson County.

Faith Community Center church in south Jefferson County, where people were bused for the night, is one of the local facilities that participates with the Severe Weather Shelter Network. The nonprofit works to shelter homeless individuals at those locations in dry weather of 20 degrees or below and wet weather of 32 degrees or below. Volunteers for the Point-in-Time effort came to survey people Jan. 29.

Tony Cabrera, 22, also came to the church by bus from Englewood.

“I came here to this state trying to get a decent education (and) go to college,” said Cabrera, who came to Colorado from Washington state. “That didn't happen, so I'm looking at a GED.”

Homeless for seven years, Cabrera often sleeps outside and frequents the central Denver area. He went to a metro-area high school but got expelled for having a fight, he said. He's stuck out here, since both his parents have died and he's lost contact with the rest of his family, Cabrera said.

“I just keep coming back to the shelters, over and over again,” Cabrera said. He's had his documents stolen while staying on the street — passport, state ID, birth certificate and medical records — so he's waiting to get some legal papers renewed to help get back on his feet. In the meantime, he comes to Giving Heart and tries to get the word out for other churches to connect with that organization, where he's gotten blankets, clothes, hygienic products and other help.

Rich Newton, 32, also came to the church during the survey.

Englewood is “kinda my home base,” said Newton, who has been homeless for about a year and stays in the area of Hampden Avenue and South Broadway. Death in his family, other family issues, problems with drugs, mental illness and losing his job contributed to becoming homeless, he said.

“Most (homeless) people here, if they're being honest,” have experienced most of that, Newton added.

Resources like Giving Heart and HOPE food pantry in Englewood have been integral to helping him get back on his feet. Newton's personal goal is to have a steady paycheck when springtime rolls around and to find shelter — a vehicle or a roommate, perhaps.

Over the past year, Newton has seen what seems to be a decrease in homeless people in his area.

“They'll go migrate to Denver or stay in Littleton,” said Newton, who said he has been contacted by the police multiple times.

“They push you out to a different place,” Newton said, “and then that place puts you back.”

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