Denver, CO

Denver may pay $64 million for temporary homeless housing

David Heitz

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Denver will consider extending two contracts Monday to provide temporary housing to people experiencing homelessness for a total of $64 million.

Meantime, the City Council also will consider issuing $12 million in notes to build permanent housing for the homeless in the form of Ronda’s Place Apartments. The building would be at 211 S. Federal St.

The temporary housing contracts to Colorado Coalition for the Homeless and The Salvation Army pay for hotel and motel rooms and the administration of wraparound services.

The city has been criticized for spending tens of millions of dollars on temporary solutions to homelessness. The city has estimated permanent housing costs about $200,000 per unit.

FEMA funds temporarily housing homeless

The money being used to pay the temporary housing contracts is coming from temporary federal COVID-19 dollars (FEMA funds). With $64 million, the city could build 300 permanent units. The hotel and motel rooms serve at least 800 people, and the extension of the contracts means they’ll be housed at least through June 30, 2022.

“The pandemic initially resulted in a 56 percent reduction in available shelter beds; as a result, (the city) activated several different sheltering models to address the needs of Denver’s most vulnerable citizens,” according to a city staff report. “Auxiliary shelter sites were stood up to accommodate a decrease in existing shelter capacity; auxiliary sites and some existing sites were transformed into 24/7 models, to provide those experiencing homelessness with a safe location to shelter in place. Other shelters were adjusted to accommodate physical distancing and other requirements.”

The contract with Colorado Coalition for the Homeless would be extended Monday by $11 million to $38 million and the Salvation Army contract by $8 million to $26 million if approved by the council.

City takes steps to curb COVID-19 spread

“(The city) also coordinated with partners to offer COVID-19 testing for vulnerable populations through street outreach, at shelters, and in protective action,” according to a staff report. “Through these efforts, (the city) has continuously collaborated with new and existing partners to ensure that persons experiencing homelessness are receiving the best and most efficient care possible. Other supports for unsheltered individuals have included improvements to public toilet and handwashing access, expanded street outreach, and a request for proposals for temporary managed campsites, which is currently underway.”

A new restroom was added on Champa Street near 16th Street Mall.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, (the city) has implemented a variety of programs and strategies to help ensure health and safety among individuals experiencing homelessness as well as to help reduce the spread of the virus throughout Denver,” the staff report boasts. “As the pandemic persists, (the city) will continue to seek out agreements and amendments to address the ongoing needs of those experiencing homelessness in these unprecedented times.”

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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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