Early this week across the Denver metro, teams of volunteers are fanning out to try to answer an important question: how many of the area's residents are experiencing homelessness right now?
The Point in Time Survey, as its called, is held in the dead of winter. People are easier to count when cold weather drives them into shelters, officials say. But the weather's been unseasonably warm recently, so the city of Aurora and the Comitis Shelter offered haircuts, among other extra services, to encourage people to use the shelter and be counted.
Survey results from Aurora and the rest of the metro will be compiled by the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative, then sent to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The 2016 survey found there were 5,467 homeless individuals in the metro area. HUD uses the statistics to inform how it doles out funding, and local governments use it to guide policy decisions.
McKittrick said the previous year's survey showed there were 420 homeless people in Aurora. She expects that number will double or even triple in 2017 -- not necessarily because of actual growth in the population, but because she's ramped up survey efforts and more people will be counted as a result.