This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

July 26, 2007 - Homelessness Rising in Douglas County?

Many of us have an image of homelessness: the raggedy man who sleeps under a bridge, pushes a grocery cart, lives in a cardboard box. Maybe he panhandles during the day, probably to support an alcohol problem.

That problem doesn't really exist in Douglas County, right?

Wrong. According to various social service agencies in the county, homelessness is on the rise, right here. But homelessness isn't a single, or simple, profile.

And it never has been.

Maybe you've read about the sharp jump in foreclosures in Colorado this year. There are many families who find -- because of catastrophic illness, or a sudden and unexpected loss of a job -- that they simply can't afford their payments anymore. They were, literally, one paycheck away from homelessness all along, but never knew it.

From all accounts, that's the profile of the problem in Douglas County: families that are generally well-educated, but abruptly find themselves without the financial wherewithal to pay the rent or mortgage.

Where do such people go? Generally, they go to other family and friends, camping out in a basement or spare room. They work hard to look for new work, but it can be harder to regain what they've lost than it was to get it the first time. Now, there's a bad credit rating, for instance.

Are you homeless? If so, you are not alone. According to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development studies, as many as 3.5 million people may be homeless at least once during the year (from "The Demographics of Homelessness," Information Plus Reference Series Fall 2005, available online from the Douglas County Libraries).

Do you know someone who is? Would you like to help bring some much needed local focus to the issue?

If so, you need to know about the "Paycheck Away Tour," coming to Douglas County on Monday, July 30, 2007, 5:30-7:30 p.m., at the county's Philip S. Miller Building, 100 3rd Street, Castle Rock.

Originally, the tour was put together by a statewide coalition of organizations advocating for solutions to issues of homelessness, hunger, and inadequate access to health care. It is designed as a "listening tour." The event occurred in several places around the state in 2006 -- Colorado Springs, Greeley, Alamosa, Grand Junction, and Aurora.

The Castle Rock event is designed to do several things:

* raise awareness of the homelessness issue in our community, and among elected officials. Too often, it is "invisible," despite the human cost and significance as a trend.

* highlight the agencies currently providing assistance -- and hear about their understanding of the nature and scope of local problems.

* listen to the people currently facing such issues. What has been their experience of the barriers and opportunities? What can they suggest to make things better?

The evening will involve at least three activities: a general overview of the state tour to date; short presentations and a panel discussion by several representatives drawn from local human services agencies; and finally, a community response, afforded by public microphones and a moderator.

I've volunteered to facilitate some of the discussion. Also invited will be other public officials and the press.

If you've been touched by this issue, or just want to know more about the size of the problem in our community, do come join us.

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