Getting back to 'normal' will take time, work, Warren-Gully says

Newest Arapahoe commissioner talks vaccines, homelessness, taxes in town hall

David Gilbert
dgilbert@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 2/20/21

There's a lot of work to do before life in Arapahoe County begins resembling “normal” again, but that work is getting started, the county's newest commissioner said. Carrie Warren-Gully held her …

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Getting back to 'normal' will take time, work, Warren-Gully says

Newest Arapahoe commissioner talks vaccines, homelessness, taxes in town hall

Posted

There's a lot of work to do before life in Arapahoe County begins resembling “normal” again, but that work is getting started, the county's newest commissioner said.

Carrie Warren-Gully held her first town hall meeting as a county commissioner on Feb. 17, a month after she was sworn in to represent District 1, which covers Littleton, Englewood, Columbine Valley and parts of Centennial.

She said returning to life beyond the pandemic will take time and adjustment.

“Normal is an interesting question, isn't it?” she said in the virtual meeting. “I'm sorry if I use that term flippantly. It'll be a new normal … when people start to feel comfortable, that's when it could look different.”

Vaccines are key, she said, as is reopening schools.

“That's when families will have the opportunity to be working as fully as they choose to be.”

But the pandemic has created or exacerbated a lot of problems that will need attention from county officials, she said.

The effects of the pandemic and associated economic impacts have pushed a lot of people on the margins into homelessness, Warren-Gully said, citing a comprehensive study presented recently to the Tri-Cities Homelessness Initiative, a task force covering Englewood, Sheridan and Littleton.

The study found that people who lost jobs or incurred significant medical burdens over the past year were more likely to lose housing, and called on local governments and nonprofits to better coordinate their responses.

“The report made an acknowledgment that we're never going to end or eradicate homelessness,” she said. “What we want to do is make sure if someone is experiencing homelessness, it's as brief as possible and only happens once. We're trying to provide support services to gain the support and skills they need.”

Warren-Gully cited the county's use of CARES Act funds to cover motel vouchers for families living in homelessness, and other efforts like assigning a staff member solely devoted to assisting veterans on the brink of homelessness.

Other CARES Act expenditures have included millions in rent and mortgage assistance and grants to food banks and other nonprofits, Warren-Gully said.

But economic recovery is a multi-faceted process, she said. It's not just about lifting restrictions but getting people to the point of feeling comfortable enough to return to gyms, theaters and other gatherings.

“We need to acknowledge a lot will come from the federal level. If we can move forward as a nation to get vaccines, open schools and resources as much as we can, that will be helpful to move forward locally as well.”

Some issues go beyond COVID. The county's quarter-cent sales tax that funds parks, trails and open spaces expires in 2023, leaving county officials to decide whether to ask voters to renew the tax, possibly as soon as this fall.

At least there are some signs of normalcy:

“I'm hearing traffic is back to pre-pandemic levels,” Warren-Gully said.

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