Homelessness Is a Shared Responsibility
Across the country, communities are facing the challenge of an increasing number of people experiencing homelessness. Wheat Ridge, as well as our neighboring cities, are feeling the impact of this national concern. While many believe police departments have the primary responsibility for responding to complaints about illegal camping, trash and panhandling, managing all of the impacts of people experiencing homelessness is a shared community responsibility and cannot be addressed with just one approach.
There are many misperceptions regarding how law enforcement can respond to homelessness issues. It isn’t illegal to be homeless nor is it illegal to panhandle unless the person is obstructing or interfering with traffic flow. Those experiencing homelessness have the same rights as everyone else as long as they are not committing any crimes. Homelessness is a complex issue and it is important to keep in mind that not everyone who is homeless chooses to be; however, some do. While not everyone who is homeless is addicted to drugs or alcohol or is suffering from one or more mental health conditions, many are. Homelessness also impacts families with children who make up a large segment of those who are homeless, further complicating this difficult issue.
The City is addressing homelessness with a coordinated, comprehensive approach including the Police, Public Works, and Parks Departments. Some of the specific approaches include regular clean up and trash removal in locations where people experiencing homelessness gather; street sweeping in these areas on a weekly basis; regular cleaning of City-owned bus shelters by a specially-trained and equipped service contractor, and removal of graffiti on City-owned property. Large homeless camps are occasionally reported to the police department and staff work together to determine the best approach for clean-up. Camps often contain human waste, hypodermic needles, soiled materials, and often harbor pests so training and the right protective equipment are critical. In these cases of potential bio-hazards, a contracted clean-up crew is called in to manage the work.
Wheat Ridge Police officers serve an important role when responding to calls regarding those experiencing homelessness. Patrols are conducted during each shift in areas often frequented by those experiencing homelessness. During contact, officers provide resources such as referrals for mental health services, housing, food banks, and job placement services. A new collaboration with businesses is being introduced this fall to help deter loitering and trespassing on private property. Effective approaches discussed with businesses including lighting, landscaping, trash clean up, and no trespassing signage to help deter the impacts on businesses caused by homelessness.
The following is a list of agencies and nonprofits in Jefferson County along with resources, food programs, shelter information including locations available during severe weather, as well as information about addiction and mental health services.
Severe Weather Shelter Information
Jefferson County – 303-271-1388
Food and Food Bank Information
Arvada Community Food Bank - 303-424-6685
Catholic Charities - 303-742-0828
Community Food Share - 303-652-3663
Food Bank of the Rockies - 303-371-9250
Food Stamps/Temporary Assistance for Needy Families - 303-271-1388
Jeffco School Free or Reduced Meals - 303-982-6748
Metro Caring - 303-239-7143
Mountain Resource Center - 303-838-7552
Salvation Army - 303-295-3366
The Action Center - 303-237-7704
The Gathering Place - 303-321-4198
Waterstone Food Pantry - 303-972-2200