Photos: Aurora Offers Haircuts For Homeless

Photo: homeless haircuts 6 | Lashon Lewis
Lashon Lewis got a drastic makeover at the Comitis Shelter in Aurora Monday, Jan. 30, 2017. His mother Sarah says his hair grows quickly. "In a week or two it'll start getting curly," she said.

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.

"It's a high-stakes couple of days," said Shelley McKittrik, Aurora's new homelessness director. "It's exciting."

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.

The 2017 report will be released later this year.

Photo: Homeless haircuts 2 | Ishmile Poole
Ishmile Poole, of Rochester, New York, did her best not to smile for a photographer as she got her hair cut at the Comitis Shelter in Aurora. Poole moved to Colorado in August looking for work as a driver. It's been tough going, but better than in New York, she said. "I'm making it work."
Photo: Homeless haircuts 3 | Ishmile Poole 2
Ishmile Poole checks out her new haircut.
Photo: Homeless haircuts 4 | Renee Knows
Christopher Melchi, a case manager for Mile High Behavioral Healthcare and an experienced cosmetologist, cuts Renee Knous' hair at a homeless shelter in Aurora. Knous moved to Denver from Massachusets four years ago and became homeless after her family kicked her out for drinking. She's been stressed recently while trying to get bus passes, a new ID, and a place to sleep every night. But the hair cut helped, she said. "That felt good. Fantastic."
Photo: Homeless haircuts 5 | Lachane Lewis
Lachane Lewis, 9, was all smiles as she got a quick trium. Her mother, Sarah, said her family just moved to the Denver area from Las Vegas. She's working at the Denver Zoo, but doesn't make enough to afford an apartment just yet. But she's hopeful that the staff at the Comitis Shelter will be able to help the family get back on their feet.
Photo: Homeless haircuts 1 | Craig Willams
Craig Williams, 50, smiles as he gets a haircut at a homeless shelter in Aurora. A native of Parker, Colo., and a construction worker, Williams has been homeless since he was laid off. He said he used to earn $80,000 a year and now hopes to save up some money to go see his ex-girlfriend in Dodge City, Kan. "Hopefully she won't be my ex then," he said.