Denver, CO

Denver spends $18.5 million to shelter homeless

David Heitz

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A woman waits to enter a Denver homeless shelter.Mike Kilcoyne/Unsplash

By David Heitz / NewsBreak Denver

(Denver, Colo.) The Denver City Council awarded $18.5 million in contracts Tuesday to shelter people experiencing homelessness.

The contracts went to:

Denver Rescue Mission: $8.7 million. That amount will serve more than 14,300 people through the end of the year by letting Denver Rescue Mission:

· Run the men's shelter at 4330 48th Ave. The shelter offers beds, laundry, three meals per day, restrooms, showers, and secure storage.

· Operate the day shelter at the Lawrence Street Community Center at 2222 Lawrence St. The shelter offers three meals per day.

· Provide case management and shelter support through the Next Step project at multiple Denver Rescue Mission sites.

Catholic Charities: $8 million. This contract keeps women's shelters open through the end of the year. The shelters don't impose work requirements and provide three meals daily. The contract allows Catholic Charities to:

· Operate a shelter at 4330 E. 48th Ave. that serves up to 450 women and is open 24 hours a day, seven days per week.

· Run an emergency women's shelter at 6249 Smith Road.

· Provide an overflow shelter at Holy Rosary, 4688 Pearl St.

Urban Peak: $1.8 million. This contract provides services to 800 households through the end of 2023. Urban Peak will provide clients with shelter, meals, showers, laundry, restrooms, mail, case management, mental health treatment and dental services at its 2100 Stout St. shelter.

Shelters can be dangerous

During public comment periods at city council meetings, advocates for people experiencing homelessness often complain about conditions at shelters run by the Rescue Mission and Catholic Charities. A person experiencing homelessness stabbed an employee to death last November at the 48th Avenue shelter.

In June 2020, a homeless shelter guest stabbed another guest at National Western Complex. The complex housed 600 men until officials closed it for the stock show. Denver Rescue Mission ran the shelter.

In April 2020, a security firm hired to watch over the National Western Complex shelter quit after only three days. The firm, Argus, said they had to furlough employees and could not fulfill the contract. However, a city council member told Denver 7 the firm did not feel it was a good fit for the shelter.

Shelter audit coming

The city auditor plans to assess the city's shelters this year. In a report earlier this month, he praised Mayor Michael Hancock for creating the Department of Housing Stability, or HOST. "Denver has a large amount of money budgeted to support services for people experiencing homelessness," auditor Timothy O'Brien said. "A centralized and strategic approach to spending that money will support more efficient and effective use of taxpayer dollars."

According to the mayor's 2022 budget, affordable housing and homelessness resolution investments total $190 million. It costs about $25,000 per person per year to house people experiencing homelessness in shelters.

City officials have acknowledged it costs less money overall to permanently house people. However, the units cannot be financed and built fast enough to accommodate the need. That's why the city also provides short-term solutions such as shelters.

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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 local newspapers in the country. Today, I report on Denver City Hall, homelessness and other topics for NewsBreak, much like I did in my twenties covering Newport Beach, Calif. for the Daily Pilot. I consider myself a lucky guy to still be doing what I love after so many years.

Denver, CO
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