When one hears the phrase “first-responders,” the first thing that comes to mind is the local police or fire department and EMT service. It seems odd to think of a place like the Action Center as a “first-responder,” but it is. The Action Center was and has been an ongoing first-responder to the economic crisis. Facing eviction and homelessness, or hunger and mounting bills are traumatic, just as a fire or need for an ambulance can be. It presents extreme anxiety and fear of the unknown for the Action Center’s clients.
Over the past year, the Action Center has responded to the ever-growing suburbanization of poverty and homelessness by helping 28,000 people with food, clothing, shelter and much more. This year, the need continued to increase as it has done so since 2008. In fact, since then, about 38,000 clients have come to the Action Center for the first time, never having needed assistance before. Many of these clients face homelessness.
Ours is a county that boasts a population greater than the state of Wyoming and is the 4th largest in Colorado. The Metro Denver Homeless Initiative released the 2013 Homeless Point-In-Time study in the spring of 2013, reporting that there are more than 1,300 homeless individuals in Jefferson County on any given night. With 1,300 homeless, there are only 40 beds available in the entire county – 22 of which are at the Action Center’s shelter.
More than half of all homelessness, reported by the study, is in the suburbs where housing costs are high and shelters are sparse. A shocking 73 percent of individuals who are homeless in Jefferson County are with children. These children also represent the one in three that are on the free and reduced lunch program.
The Action Center responded to these 28,000 individuals with not only an immediate response to their need for food, clothing and shelter, but also by providing the pathways that will lead clients out of homelessness and poverty toward their own self-sufficiency.