No place to call home

News

No place to call home

Clichés abound, but working poor, lower-middle class dominate
There is no easy way to estimate the number of people in Durango who are homeless. Agencies that provide support in La Plata County say, anecdotally, the local population is increasing – and is increasingly visible. Lucero, the homeless man seen here and who preferred only his first name be used, often spends several hours a day on busy Main Avenue in downtown Durango. As visible as he is, the homeless population in Durango spans the economic spectrum. Public perception and negative stereotypes are some of the most challenging aspects of addressing the problem.
A married mother of three holds a sign asking for assistance on Main Avenue. The mother, who did not want to be identified or have her face in the photograph, said her family’s tent near Lemon Reservoir was destroyed and everything in it was taken. “We are not the kind of family who wants handouts; just hard times right now, and we do not use any kind of drugs,” she said.
A homeless man who identified himself as Lucero spends much of his day sitting on a sidewalk on Main Avenue.

No place to call home

There is no easy way to estimate the number of people in Durango who are homeless. Agencies that provide support in La Plata County say, anecdotally, the local population is increasing – and is increasingly visible. Lucero, the homeless man seen here and who preferred only his first name be used, often spends several hours a day on busy Main Avenue in downtown Durango. As visible as he is, the homeless population in Durango spans the economic spectrum. Public perception and negative stereotypes are some of the most challenging aspects of addressing the problem.
A married mother of three holds a sign asking for assistance on Main Avenue. The mother, who did not want to be identified or have her face in the photograph, said her family’s tent near Lemon Reservoir was destroyed and everything in it was taken. “We are not the kind of family who wants handouts; just hard times right now, and we do not use any kind of drugs,” she said.
A homeless man who identified himself as Lucero spends much of his day sitting on a sidewalk on Main Avenue.
Language of homelessness

Homelessness has its own vernacular. The broad definition of homelessness is individuals or families living with family, couch-surfing and people who are doubling up – such as two families living in a space designed for one – as well as those who are sleeping on the street, in their cars or in shelters.
Housing insecurity
Refers to individuals or families who are one paycheck away from losing their home, pay a disproportionate amount of their income on housing or live in motels or substandard housing.
Chronically homeless
Defined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development as those dealing with a disabling condition who have been either continuously homeless for a year or more or have had at least four episodes of homelessness in the previous three years.
Disabling condition
Refers to substance abuse, serious mental illness, developmental disability, post-traumatic stress disorder, cognitive impairments resulting from brain injury or chronic physical illness or disability.
Homeless youths
Refers to young people up to 24 years of age. They may be children living with homeless or inadequately housed families or teenagers who have fled abusive situations or been kicked out. Large percentages of homeless youths identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender or are former foster children who have aged out of the system at 18.
Transitional housing
Provides temporary residence for up to 24 months and usually includes wrap-around services to help veterans and other chronically homeless people stabilize their lives.
Fair market rental rates
Rates calculated by HUD annually and are used in the Housing Choice Voucher program. A fair market rental is meant to be modest – not luxurious – housing, costing less than the typical unit of that bedroom size in that city or county.
Supplemental Security Income
Refers to payments made by the U.S. Social Security Administration to people considered disabled. Some states, including Colorado, offer a supplement to the SSI. In 2014, the SSI payment was $721 per month, and Colorado tacked on another $25, leading to a monthly income of $746, which is 17.8 percent of the median income. Colorado is one of 17 states where housing for the disabled costs more than 100 percent of their SSI plus supplemental payment. In 2014, there were 46,413 people in the state receiving SSI payments.

In this series

Sunday: Who are the homeless and how did they arrive there? Three misconceptions about homelessness.
Monday: The problem with homeless camping, and if not outside, where?
Tuesday: The homeless are vulnerable to weather, wildlife and one another. Children and young adults can find themselves without a roof.
Wednesday: Solutions to homelessness: Give them a place to live.

Reader Comments
click here to add your event
Area Events