Denver, CO

Denver funds Crossroads homeless shelter through 2023

David Heitz

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It appears the Salvation Army Crossroads homeless shelter will remain open at least through December 2023.

The Denver City Council approved Monday a multi-million contract with the Salvation Army to operate Crossroads. The $10.6 million contract states, “This project will fund shelter operations and programing for three years at the Salvation Army’s Crossroads Center. The Salvation Army will operate and maintain a 365-day, 24-hour low-barrier emergency sheltering facility for 250 men and transgender guests experiencing homelessness. The contract will serve 2,000 unduplicated individuals annually in shelter operations and 1,000 unduplicated individuals annually in shelter programs.”

The city owns the old warehouse that is the Salvation Army Crossroads building. Denver bought the property in 2018 for $10.5 million.

The shelter is located on some of the city’s priciest land in the River North, or RINO, district. An empty lot across from Crossroads is slated for luxury apartments. Next to that empty lot, luxury apartments already have sprouted. Rumors have swirled for years that eventually the shelter would be demolished for luxury housing, too.

But that didn’t happen. Instead, the city purchased Crossroads, further fueling rumors of its demise.

Shelter adds support services to offerings

“The city’s purchase of Crossroads is critical to ensuring our residents experiencing homelessness have the support from our community to be healthy, housed and connected to the services they need,” Mayor Michael Hancock said in a news release. “Our approach will continue to be one of compassion and dignity for our most vulnerable residents, and we’re proud to continue our partnership with the Salvation Army in driving towards a supportive care system that addresses individual needs and experiences."

The shelter offers more support services now than it once did. “Shelter programs will provide low-barrier, housing-focused, and person-centered case management services in pursuit of positive housing outcomes,” according to a report by city staff. “Services will include individualized assistance, housing navigation, peer navigation, wraparound service and resource navigation, and landlord outreach, development, and mediation.”

The above-mentioned services weren’t offered by Crossroads when I was experiencing homelessness. Crossroads is where I usually stayed.

“Crossroads shelter has been in operation since 1983 and was supported by (Department of Housing Stability) in 2020 at $1.5 million,” according to a staff report. “This new contract represents a large increase in funding going to support the addition of 24/7 operations.”

‘Wet side’ and ‘dry side’ inside shelter

Inside Crossroads homeless shelter used to be a circus at times. The Salvation Army replaced two top employees at the shelter around the time that the city purchased it.

Men who stayed at the shelter and its employees often referenced a “dry side” and a “wet side” of the shelter, although drugs and alcohol were supposed to be prohibited throughout. The “dry side” tended to be quieter, but the room was claustrophobic.

The shelter used to be extremely no-frills. Mats lie on a concrete floor with bugs crawling out of the cracks. Bed bugs at Crossroads shelter reached epidemic proportions. It never was a matter of if the bugs would bite you, but when.

No longer do men sleep on mats on the floor. New cots were purchased.

The shelter had a filthy restroom. Some Crossroads clients would defecate all over the toilet seats. Other times you would go to use the restroom in the middle of the night and find someone sitting on the toilet with a needle hanging out of their arm.

Shelter conditions improve under city ownership

But there were many good men Crossroads. Working men.

I ran into several people last year who remain clients of Crossroads. All of them said conditions at the shelter have improved markedly since the city purchased it.

Before the city’s purchase, Crossroads had problems meeting the city’s fire code. The shelter often exceeded occupancy limits.

Also Monday, the city awarded a second contract to the Salvation Army for $660,852. According to the resolution, the contract is “to provide rapid rehousing and homelessness prevention services to individuals and families who are at risk of homelessness or are transitioning out of homelessness, citywide.”

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I have been in the news business more than 30 years, spending much of my career at some of the best newspapers in the country. Today, I specialize in Denver local news, health reporting, social justice issues, addiction/recovery/mental health news, and topics surrounding homelessness and human trafficking.

Denver, CO
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