The City of Aurora is looking for volunteers for its 2024 point-in-time count, an annual survey of people experiencing homelessness in the city. Organizations recently learned a shortfall in citywould impact funding many programs for the unhoused.
Volunteers will assist by covering a designated area of the community with a team and speaking directly with people experiencing homelessness. They'll also administer a survey to help identify needs.
According to the 2023 Point-in-Time Count Survey, there are 572 people experiencing homelessness. Currently, there are 130 to 150 shelter beds available on any given night.
"The numbers that we receive give us a clear understanding of how many people we have in our community experiencing homelessness, the types of services that are needed, and it also is an indicator for federal funding," explained Jessica Prosser, Aurora Director Of Housing and Community Services.
Counters will engage with people who are camping or living out of their vehicles and work with them to access services in the community.
"We'll use the survey to determine the prioritization of where the limited resources we have will go," said Prosser. "If a lot of folks are sleeping in vehicles, we may think about needing safe parking lots, which is something that's come out of this in past years."
The city will continue to prioritize emergency services and lifesaving services. The city is also looking to build a regional homeless navigation campus to support those experiencing homelessness and provide homeless prevention services. The campus is expected to be completed fall 2025.
While volunteers help direct people to services, organizations that provide these services will figure out how to serve them with less or no city funding.
City staffers recommended that Bridge House, a year-long transitional housing program that helps people get and stay on their feet, receive no funding from its limited budget.
Bridge House's Ready to Work Housing and Employment Program helps men and women who are homeless rebuild their lives. People in the program receive paid work, dormitory housing, and case management support.
"We don't just offer housing; we offer housing and work. We have an aftercare manager, we have an employment specialist, we have so much right here in this building," said Marlo Alston, Community Relations and Development Manager with Bridge House Ready to Work.
In 2018, Bridge House opened its Ready to Work site in Aurora with capacity for 50 individuals. They are the only organization in Metro Denver that offers a comprehensive, employment-based solution to address homelessness.
"It's unfortunate they had to cut our funding, but hopefully they'll find a way to continue to help us do the work that's necessary," said Alston. "Please donate to our organization. We need your help."
For those interested in volunteering for the homeless count, the city will hold two informational meetings at 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 5 and noon on Dec. 6.
To register as a volunteer, visit the city's volunteer portal. New volunteers must attend a one-hour virtual training, hosted by Metro Denver Homeless Initiative.
For more information, visit the homeless portal on the city's website.
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