No, this isn’t Arizona, no matter what an autumn of above-normal temperatures might have conveyed to our senses.

This week will mark the return of seasonal weather to Colorado: brisk days and nights that fall below freezing. Depending on how an Arctic air mass develops later this week, the mercury could go even lower.

For the homeless population on the Front Range, that means the dangerous time has begun. With space at local shelters tight — and some shelters don’t even open until the weather turns far worse — those without a roof over their head or living in a car will face stark challenges this year.

According to a new report from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, more than 10,000 people were identified as homeless during a night of counting in Colorado. While it was a reduction statewide in the homeless count over the high set in 2010, in some locations, such as Longmont, the numbers have seen a recent climb. As the number of homeless reported in the Denver metropolitan area decreased, census takers in the rest of the state saw more homeless people in their neighborhoods.

Homeless individuals are far more than those seen holding cardboard signs or pushing around their belongings near parks and commercial districts. Such individuals might have a job but not the means to make a rental deposit and first month’s rent, which could be a couple thousand dollars. Instead of camping somewhere, many homeless look for a quiet place where a car can be parked or stay on a friend’s couch until their welcome is worn out.

Some categories showed marked improvement, which should be applauded. The number of homeless families and homeless veterans nationwide each showed a significant reduction. Efforts from local, state and federal agencies to match those groups with effective housing proved to be effective.

However, more work can be done, especially through non-governmental agencies such as nonprofits and faith organizations. Volunteer opportunities abound at places such as Agape Family Services and Homeless Outreach Providing Encouragement.

With winter at hand, now is the time to act.


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