Denver auditor slams city’s $63M plan to end homelessness

· Apr. 16, 2015, 4:32 pm
Photo: Homeless day shelter in Denver (AP Photo)AP
In this Dec. 5, 2013 file photo, Tom Tuning, right, greets homeless men who wait for the opening of the St. Francis Center's day shelter, where Tuning works, in downtown Denver.

An audit released Thursday says Denver's 10-year plan to end homelessness does not collect sufficient data to measure its own progress.

Started in 2005, Denver's Road Home set out to end homelessness in the city by this year, funding a variety of service providers in the city. It's spent $63 million so far, the audit says.

“We have spent all this money but we don’t know if anything is actually getting any better,” Auditor Dennis Gallagher said in response to the findings. 

In a discussion following the auditor's presentation, the organization's executive director, Bennie Milliner, pushed back at that assertion. He said his team uses industry standard "point in time" surveys and in-person interviews to inform their activities. 

“Our volunteers are trained. They go out -- they don’t just check boxes for bodies. They interact with people, get demographic information. So those that we contact, we know are a good reflection of who the homeless are, their circumstances and where they came from.”

The audit recommends the city improve its data collection efforts in its next homeless plan, which the city will unveil later this year.

The audit also addressed the city's camping ban, which went into effect in 2012 but has recently become the target of advocates. Auditors analyzed arrest data and found a sizable increase of arrests related to homelessness, but stopped short of attributing the bump to the camping ban. 
"Overall, this demonstrates the need for the City -- specifically [Denver's Road Home] and the [Commission to End Homelessness] --to be vigilant in monitoring these trends and to take action if this monitoring shows a direct link between the Ordinance and increased criminalization of Denver’s homeless population," the audit states.

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