Denver, CO

Denver postpones vote on contract to house homeless in hotel

David Heitz

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By David Heitz / NewsBreak Denver

(Denver, Colo.) Denver City Council postponed for a week Monday a controversial vote on whether to extend a contract to house people experiencing homelessness at Aloft hotel.

The council did not vote on the postponement. Councilmember Debbie Ortega invoked a rule allowing the postponement known as 3.7. Ortega said she could not attend the committee meeting where the contract originally was discussed.

Ortega said she has concerns about the contract and needs time to digest some information. She spoke with Department of Housing Stability, or HOST Director Britta Fisher Monday. She said she wants to make sure there is an exit plan for the Aloft contract when federal money dries up.

Councilwoman Robin Kniech asked Fisher if anyone would lose their housing at Aloft because of the postponed vote. Fisher said they would not.

Committee approved contract

Despite backlash from neighbors, the Finance and Governance Committee voted to allow 140 people experiencing homelessness to stay at the Aloft hotel through the end of December. The full City Council still must approve the $2.4 million contract with the hotel at 800 15th St.

According to a city presentation, Denver spends $13,300 per day for 140 rooms at $95 per night. Multiple agencies have contracts to operate Aloft as a shelter.

The hotel has operated as a homeless shelter since 2020. The city has paid Aloft more than $13 million since then.

Several contracts at Aloft

Ortega also invoked the rule to postpone for one week a vote on an accompanying $644,000 contract to provide food service at the hotel through the end of the year. Aloft would provide three meals per day.

Colorado Coalition for the Homeless provides case management and health services at the hotel. The Salvation Army serves as shelter administrator.

The city has contracts with four hotels to house people experiencing homelessness at risk for COVID. The city has been unable to find more hotels to participate in the program.

Federal Emergency Management Association grants pay the hotel contracts.

Shelter for disabled people at risk for COVID

The city has placed homeless people at risk of catching COVID in the Aloft hotel since 2020. Neighbors say problems such as people smoking meth outdoors and litter have gotten worse.

Representatives of the Upper Downtown Neighborhood Association said they bought their homes near a hotel, not a poorly managed site for the homeless.

HOST agreed to add security patrols around the hotel. Neighbors told Councilmember Chris Hinds they don't see patrols.

Councilmembers have said that the Aloft residents have disabilities and would be on the street without Denver's help.

One resident of the hotel spoke at the May 23 council meeting. Randle Loeb, who became homeless after losing a landscaping job, said he could have died without shelter at the hotel. He added not everyone at Aloft uses drugs.

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I've been in the news business 35 years, spending much of my career at local newspapers. Today, I report on Denver and Aurora city halls for NewsBreak. Prior to joining NewsBreak, I worked several years as a health reporter and branded content writer in the healthcare space. I also worked many years as a news editor and city editor. I consider myself a lucky guy to live in a great place like Denver.

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