Case Studies |

Metro Denver achieves quality data in five out of nine subregions

The metro area’s subregional, data-driven approach has helped them reduce veteran homelessness by 30% in four years.
  |  March 26, 2024

“We can say with strong certainty that nine out of 10 veterans experiencing homelessness in Metro Denver are accounted for by our homeless systems,” says Ian Fletcher, a Community Solutions strategy lead who has been supporting the region’s efforts for over a decade.

Thanks to better data collection and improved coordination among agencies, the Metro Denver area has achieved quality by-name data on veterans experiencing homelessness for five of its nine subregions. 

Because Metro Denver covers a large geographic area — including seven counties and more than 3.2 million people — it can be hard to address homelessness throughout the area all at once. That’s why they’re taking a subregionalization approach, breaking the huge metro area into nine distinct subregions, all overseen by the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative (MDHI).

Metro Denver has reduced veteran homelessness by 30% since 2020, according to the by-name dataset.

Lauren Lapinski, a Coordinated Entry Specialist for VA, explains that three years ago, Metro Denver had well over 500 veterans experiencing homelessness. During case conferencing meetings, MDHI and VA leadership came together to problem solve for each veteran experiencing homelessness.

“We didn’t feel like we could have a really useful or productive case conference meeting when we have that vast of a list,” says Lapinski. 

Subregionalization was essential to making progress on veteran homelessness in Denver: by breaking up the region into smaller parts, providers could more accurately achieve by-name data and address the unique needs of each subregion. Each subregion reports this data into the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), which is then shared by MDHI, the region’s Continuum of Care, giving decision makers a better understanding of veteran homelessness across the entire region.

This approach is working. In October of 2023, Tri-Cities and Douglas County became the latest subregions to achieve quality data for veterans. They have joined Adams and Aurora, which achieved by-name data earlier in the year, and Boulder, which became the first subregion to reach the goal in 2022.

Altogether, Metro Denver partners have helped more than 1,874 veteran households move into housing since 2020. This translates into a 30% reduction of veteran homelessness over four years when accounting for veterans also entering into the homeless system. They’re working toward the goal of reaching functional zero for veteran homelessness, a milestone that indicates that homelessness is measurably rare and brief for a population.

Leveraging by-name data to reduce homelessness

Metro Denver is part of the Built for Zero movement to end homelessness, which takes a data-driven approach to solving the problem. Collecting by-name information on every person experiencing homelessness — and keeping this information updated — is critical to knowing if communities are making progress on reducing homelessness and to serving the unique needs of individuals experiencing homelessness.

In Metro Denver, they’re working on building out quality data for veterans across all its subregions.

Tracking this data over time has allowed providers to see that veteran homelessness is declining for the entire Metro Denver population.

“At the end of the day, we know that our end goal is to solve homelessness in the entire region,” explains Sofia Vigil, Regional Coordination Lead at MDHI.

Providers can leverage this by-name data to ensure that changes in the homeless population are actually caused by a decline in homelessness and that people are not simply leaving one subregion to go to another, explains Vigil.

Structural changes in how key stakeholders manage and share this data have led to more effective ways of working.

Investments from Kaiser Permanente allowed MDHI to hire additional improvement advisors to streamline coordination efforts. These improvement advisors act as liaisons between Community Solutions and the Metro Denver team, ensuring the Built for Zero methodology is being applied in each subregion and is sustainably embedded locally. 

The organizations working together on veteran homelessness met for a Learning Session in Littleton, Colorado in Aug. 2023.
The organizations working together on veteran homelessness met for a Learning Session in Littleton, Colorado, in August 2023.

Quality data supports targeted efforts

Better data on homelessness can lead to better solutions for solving it. Analyzing this data can help identify patterns in barriers that are keeping people out of housing.

In Metro Denver, they realized that almost half of the veterans experiencing homelessness there are over the age of 60. Some may demonstrate a need for higher-level care and may not be accepted to transitional housing or emergency shelters if they struggle with something like incontinence. Many may need assisted living but struggle to get to meetings and doctor visits, provide documentation, or fear giving up their independence.

By understanding patterns within the homeless veteran population, stakeholders are better equipped to meet older veterans’ unique needs.

“They especially need those case managers to bring them to things, help them get those documents, and maybe plant the seed about living in assisted living or a nursing home,” Lapinski explains. “It’s hard for the veterans to come to terms with.”

Those on the frontlines have been advocating for specialized shelters with nursing staff to better bridge the time it takes for aging veterans with higher needs to get into an assisted living center. This would especially be beneficial as homeless veterans age and develop increasingly complex needs.

Some of the Metro Denver team at the 2023 Built for Zero Learning Session.

“We as people made these systems, so we as people can improve these systems.”

— Sofia Vigil, Regional Coordination Lead at MDHI (shown third from the right)

Closing in on comprehensive data on veteran homelessness

Thanks to its strides in collecting quality by-name data, Metro Denver will soon know all of the homeless veterans it serves by name, empowering them to address their unique barriers to permanent housing. 

They anticipate that the remaining four subregions will achieve quality data for their veterans by June 2024

MDHI will use its success in establishing quality data for veterans to get a count of the entire population of people experiencing homelessness, including all singles, those experiencing chronic homelessness, families, and youth. Right now, MDHI is building out its homeless management information system to support this goal for the Metro Denver area.

Metro Denver’s coordinated response to addressing homelessness for veterans is part of a broader goal to find a sustainable solution for a system that is broken. “We as people made these systems, so we as people can improve these systems,” says Vigil. “It’s going to take time and effort, but we have the ability to improve and right the wrongs that as a society we have let just pass on for too long.”

“In our region, we have many communities and cities and partners which can complicate things, but it also means that you have peers who are adjacent to one another learning and testing and trying new things, and we can then replicate and adapt and expand on what is working,” says Fletcher. 

Ian Fletcher


“Business as usual is not gonna solve this problem.” Ian Fletcher, the Built for Zero Strategy Lead for Large-Scale Change, on how Metro Denver is making progress on veteran homelessness.