Denver, CO

Contracts for homeless shelters, security questioned

David Heitz

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A Denver City Council member questioned Monday city contracts awarded to Catholic Charities and Denver Rescue Mission for providing shelter to people experiencing homelessness.

Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca said she is concerned about the many complaints the city has received about the shelters. She said COVID outbreaks have been reported at both locations.

At the men’s shelter, run by the Rescue Mission, some homeless advocates say it is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. They say people with disabilities don’t get help with their activities of daily living. The city denies the shelter is violating ADA requirements.

Two people have died at the shelters. One was an employee who was stabbed to death by a former client as he left the shelter. Security is supposed to escort employees to their cars.

Staff unsure how many shelter complaints logged

Angie Nelson, deputy director of the Department of Housing Stability, said she did not know how many complaints the city has received about the shelters. CdeBaca said the city should have a protocol for addressing complaints.

CdeBaca said she only voted to approve the contracts with Denver Rescue Mission and Catholic Charities because there is no backup plan. “(The Department of Housing Stability) needs protocols to deal with continued complaints from advocates and people working in the shelters,” CdeBaca said.

The city owns the buildings where she shelters operate. The city leases the buildings to the non-profits for $30 per year. The leases were approved Monday.

Security firm gets more time to prepare

Another contract questioned Monday was a proposal to award Securitas Security with a $25 million job. City Council member Robin Kniech asked to delay voting on the measure for a week. She said Securitas needs time to meet with employees carried over from the previous contract “for comments and collaboration.”

Kniech said the city can’t afford an interruption in security services, which happened last year when a firm suddenly quit. “More partnership and dialogue is needed to avoid disruptions that are foreseeable and presentable,” Kniech said.

The city will vote on the security contract at its Dec. 20 meeting.

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I've been in the news business 35 years, spending much of my career in editing roles at local newspapers in Los Angeles, Detroit, and the Quad-Cities of Illinois and Iowa. Upon moving to Denver in 2018, I began experiencing severe mental illness due to several traumatic experiences. I became homeless on the street for about a year before spending time in the state mental hospital. I am living proof that people can rebound from mental illness with proper treatment, even after experiencing homelessness. I consider myself a lucky guy to live in a great place like Denver. I hope my writing reflects the passion I have for living here.

Denver, CO
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