Key Findings from Public Opinion Research
Perspectives on Homelessness in the Metro Denver Area

The Denver Foundation commissioned a poll of Metro Denver residents’ awareness, understanding, and values related to homelessness. The poll was conducted January 14-22, 2015, by the bipartisan research team of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates and Public Opinion Strategies. Telephone interviews were conducted with 812 registered voters across the seven-county Denver metro area, with oversamples of African American and Latino voters. All data were statistically weighted to reflect the true ethnic composition of Metro Denver residents.

Key Findings

Recognition of the problem. More than half of those polled (58%) said homelessness is an extremely or very serious problem in the Metro Denver region. 70% believe it is nearly impossible or very difficult for people who are homeless to find a home.

Belief in solutions. Yet a majority (64%) believed the problem of homelessness in Metro Denver can be improved, or even solved (24%).

Personal connection. Among the most surprising findings were the more than 1-in-10 of those surveyed who said they themselves had experienced a period of homelessness. An additional 1-in-5 said they have come close to being homeless and 43% said they have friends or family members who have experienced homelessness.

Misperceptions about who is experiencing homelessness. Those surveyed believed the largest portion of homeless individuals in Metro Denver to be men (66%); only 19% believed there to be higher rates of homeless families with children, or homeless women (17%). Yet the annual Point-In-Time Survey, which provides a current estimate of homelessness in Metro Denver, showed that at the time the poll was conducted, families with children made up more than half (53.1%) of the homeless population in the region. And, while the ratio of homeless men (60.2%) is higher than women (39.5%) for the region as a whole, only Denver and Boulder had a majority of men experiencing homelessness and the other five metro counties had a majority of women who are homeless.

Misperceptions about causes of homelessness. Not many of those polled appreciated how changed family circumstances – caused by such things as domestic violence, illness, divorce or death – contribute to homelessness.

Perceptions vs. Reasons why People are Homeless

The Denver Foundation Poll Perceptions about why Metro Denver Residents are Homeless* 2014 Point-In-Time Survey Reasons why Metro Denver Residents say they are Homeless
1 Unemployment 59% 1 Lost job/can’t find work 43.9%
2 Substance Abuse 57% 2 Housing costs too high 31.9%
3 Mental Illness 53% 3 Relationship/family break-up 28.2%
4 Housing costs too high 47% 4 Mental Illness 21.3%
13 Relationship/family break-up 19% 5 Substance abuse 18.9%

*Poll respondents replied these were “almost always” or “usually” the reasons that people are homeless.

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