Denver, CO

Denver council delays housing homeless at hotel

David Heitz

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Aloft HotelAloft

By David Heitz / NewsBreak Denver

(Denver, Colo.) The council office announced Thursday that the Denver City Council wouldn't meet Monday because it won't have a quorum. Several council members will be attending a conference.

The agenda only listed the lack of a quorum as a reason for canceling the meeting. The city charter requires seven council members to attend to create a quorum. Several members will be attending an "urban exploration trip" hosted by Downtown Denver Partnership, council secretary Marquasa Maes said.

The city rescheduled items on the June 13 agenda at the June 20 council meeting. That includes a contract with Aloft Hotel downtown to house 140 people experiencing homelessness.

The council delayed a vote last week on the controversial contract, which has drawn the ire of neighbors.

Councilmember Debbie Ortega invoked a privilege last week where any council member can delay a vote on an item for one week. The rest of the council does not have to approve the delay.

Ortega said she needed more time to review the contract since she could not attend the committee meeting when other council members discussed the issue.

Neighbors don't want the city to renew the $2.4 million contract with Aloft. Approving that contract would allow disabled homeless people at risk of catching COVID to remain in the hotel through the end of December.

Neighbors say the hotel attracts drug use. They also cite litter as a problem.

Monday's agenda only contains the contract for the rooms at Aloft and a $584,000 contract for meals for residents of Aloft through the end of December.

Kniech expressed concern about delay last week

Aloft has operated as a non-congregate homeless shelter since 2020. Since then, the city has spent more than $13 million just with JBK Hotels doing business as Aloft.

The city also has contracts with Colorado Coalition for the Homeless and Salvation Army to provide health care and manage the site.

City Councilmember Robin Kniech expressed concern when Ortega delayed the vote last week. She wanted assurance no one would have to leave the hotel because renewing the contract was delayed.

Britta Fisher, head of Denver's Department of Housing Stability, said it would be cutting it close to delay approving the contract. However, she said the city has a good relationship with the hotel and does not anticipate the delay would force anyone to leave.

Hotel sits in prime spot near convention center

The hotel is in a high-profile location near the convention center. Business owners say the hotel's homeless clientele chase off customers.

In an executive summary to council, city staff offers a scenario for letting the contract expire.

"If the original agreement were to expire, the city would lose access to 140 rooms, decreasing the number of rooms available and putting many vulnerable individuals at risk of losing stable shelter."

The city has contracts with four hotels to provide 560 beds to people experiencing homelessness at risk for COVID.

"The population served at this location include individuals who are most vulnerable to negative outcomes if they contract COVID-19, including older populations and individuals with underlying health conditions," city staff explains in the executive summary.

"Many of the occupants at this property use wheelchairs, walkers, are on oxygen tanks or have other severe health conditions. Keeping units available during this pandemic for this population provides a needed service and provides an increased wellbeing for these individuals."

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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.

Denver, CO
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