In 2012, Colorado voters approved a constitutional amendment that cleared the way for the legalization of the growing and consumption of marijuana for recreational use. While the debate continue over where the move has contributed to homelessness in the state, it is undeniable that the rise of the new industry is contributing to economic growth in the region. Boom times for Colorado, especially in the Denver metro area, have led to higher housing costs in an area where the cost of living was already high.
More than 6,000 men, women and children in the Denver metro area are without permanent shelter. To deal with the swelling numbers of homeless people living on the streets, Denver officials are now more aggressively enforcing bans on camping on sidewalks, in public parks and on other public lands.
In a 2015 survey of residents in the Denver metro area, one in five respondents said they had come close to experiencing homelessness. The survey results reveal that many Americans are living on the edge financially. The loss of one or two paychecks, a medical crisis, for example, are more than many families can absorb, and can result in the loss of their home or apartment. A common public perception is that most who are experiencing homelessness are unwilling to help themselves.
Objective data reveals that lost jobs and high housing costs are leading causes of homelessness, followed by divorces and family breakups. To be sure, many who are experiencing homelessness are struggling with mental health issues, alcoholism and drug addiction. But the majority of those experiencing homelessness face other challenges, many of them economic.
Another common misconception is that most of those who are homeless are living on the streets. In truth, three out of ten Americans who are experiencing homelessness are sleeping in their cars. Another third are saying with friends or family. Some are living in shelters, longer-term subsidized housing and transitional housing. Still others are sheltered by organizations, such as rescue missions, that offer long-term, live-in programs that aid in recovery from alcohol and drug addiction, and the aim to help participants develop the skills, habits and disciplines that will better equip them for stable employment and healthy living.