The Vulnerable Among Us

Samaritan House Women's Shelter clients wait outside for shelter and a hot meal.

This is a special story on the issue of women and homelessness in Denver, a growing problem in recent years. Samaritan House Women's Shelter is one of Denver's leading advocates for helping women out of homelessness.

The housing market is booming. Bad neighborhoods are becoming gentrified, cranes tower over downtown, and trendy restaurants are popping up on street corners. This is the state of Denver in 2017. But take a closer look—not everyone is benefiting from these changes.

Just ask Amena Ahmad, the emergency services manager at Samaritan House in downtown Denver, who oversees services for single homeless women. The Samaritan House Women’s Shelter provides vulnerable women with emergency shelter and hot meals.

“We’ve grown as a city, and the homeless population has exponentially increased in the last five years,” she said. “From November of 2014, our first day, we had 13 women. We average now between 180 and 200 women per night.”

Though the reasons for the increase are not clear cut, Ahmad points to the rising cost of housing in the Denver metro area as a major contributor.

“Our housing market has gotten so out of control that a lot of public housing options have disappeared for our clients. These clients have an uphill battle when it comes to housing,” she said.

This, along with mental illness, addiction, and broken relationships are the main reasons women fall into homelessness, according to Ahmad.

Samaritan House Women’s Shelter is the main source of emergency shelter for homeless women in Denver, according to Geoff Bennett, who oversaw Shelters and Community Outreach for Catholic Charities in Denver for the past ten years. Bennett is now the Vice President of Parish and Community Relations for Catholic Charities.

“Right now we have about 90 percent plus of the overnight emergency shelter beds for women,” he said.

Emergency shelter beds are crucial for women, keeping them safe at night instead of left as victims of the street. Often without families or friends to watch for their safety, women face serious danger.

Local homeless women in Denver explain their vulnerability and the importance of safe shelter.

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