homeless shelter

Darin Taylor and Theresa Graham organize their belongings across the street from the Winter Warming Shelter on Monday, April 18, 2016. (photo by Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette)

The number of homeless people living in El Paso County appears on the rise, results of an annual survey show.

El Paso County's homeless population in January grew to 1,302 people, an increase of 229 people from the same point last year, according to the annual Point In Time survey.

Pinpointing an exact reason for the increase is difficult, said Anne Beer, the Pikes Peak United Way's vice president of income and housing stability.

However, the increase may suggest people are coming to Colorado seeking economic prosperity - thinking they have a better shot to improve their quality of life here, Beer said.

Twenty-one percent of the people surveyed said their last permanent home was in another state, said Beer, who helped organize the survey.

"People move for economic opportunity, and people who are experiencing homelessness also are looking for economic opportunity - whether it's jobs or it's benefits or it's health care or whatever it is," Beer said.

She cautioned that the survey, which is required for the region to seek federal funds to combat homelessness, likely undercounts the number of people living on the streets.

The data is collected by volunteers who fan out across the area, visiting the Marian House Soup Kitchen, popular hangouts and homeless camps. Each of them asks where people slept the night of Jan. 24.

Answering the survey is voluntary, and some people refused to participate.

Still, it is considered the best possible snapshot of the county's homeless population.

This year's increase was felt across almost every demographic that organizers tracked.

Surveyors counted 311 people who were considered unsheltered - meaning they lived outside or in their cars. It marked an increase of 68 people from last year's count.

The share of unsheltered people who recently arrived from another state rose from 17 percent to nearly 28 percent, the survey found.

Survey takers also counted seven more veterans, bringing the total to 168.

An additional 16 youths - considered anyone age 24 or younger - were counted this year, bringing the number to 112.

A broader report offering a more complete picture of the region's homeless population is expected in the coming months, Beer said.

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Contact Jakob Rodgers: 476-1654

Twitter: @jakobrodgers

Facebook: Jakob Rodgers

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