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Residents of Denver Suburb Press for Housing Assistance

There are 5,116 people experiencing homelessness in the Denver metro area, including 1,500 families with children and more than 500 veterans. (Getty Images)
There are 5,116 people experiencing homelessness in the Denver metro area, including 1,500 families with children and more than 500 veterans. (Getty Images)
June 30, 2017

WESTMINSTER, Colo. – Housing advocates in Westminster have confronted their City Council on the one-year anniversary of the city's "Coming Home Day" proclamation, where officials promised to prioritize affordable housing.

One resident testified that after seeing her rent double over five years, virtually 100 percent of her income now goes toward housing.

Melissa Hastings with the group We Organize Westminster (WOW) says the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,200 a month, and there are more than 4,000 people on a three-year wait list for subsidized housing.

"A year ago, City Council promised that they would work towards more affordable housing, and a year later we haven't seen any progress from them," Hastings says. "There are 1,000 homeless kids in Westminster. We need them to do something about it."

WOW presented 300 signatures calling on officials to act, along with policy recommendations based on successful efforts in other cities, such as the creation of an affordable-housing trust fund.

The group also urged the council to implement a "Renter's Bill of Rights," which would include mandatory translated leases for non-English-speaking residents and pro bono legal aid for tenants through local bar associations.

Councilwoman Emma Pinter admitted that the city's efforts have been insufficient, and told the group that residents will play a critical role in shaping policies going forward.

Hastings says WOW will knock on doors this summer to build its numbers and will continue to work with council members to implement the group's policy recommendations.

"I have friends that are going to potentially be homeless because they're not going to be able to afford their rent," she explains. "They're struggling, month after month, just to make it. You know, they're having a hard time buying groceries because they're paying so much in rent."

A new snapshot by the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative counted more than 5,100 people experiencing homelessness in the metro area this year, including 1,500 families with children and more than 500 veterans.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO