Committee recommends extending contracts to house homeless at hotels

David Heitz
The Comfort Inn at 401 E. 58th

Denver's Safety, Housing, Education and Homelessness Committee on Wednesday recommended extending two more hotel contracts to house the homeless.

The Super 8, 5888 N. Broadway, or Comfort Inn, 401 E. 58th Ave, will shelter people experiencing homelessness.

The city added $1.8 million to the contract with U.S. Motels Denver North through the end of this year.

The full City Council still must approve the contract.

Hotels used as overflow shelters

The hotels provide rooms to people experiencing homelessness when other shelters fill up. "This program has seen a significant increase in the number of families and the complexity of support services needed," according to a memo from city staff to the council. "These facilities currently serve the largest portion of families out of the city's available family shelter capacity."

Families seeking emergency shelter at the hotels can sign up at:

· The Gathering Place, 1535 N High St. in Denver, from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

· The VOA Mission, from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m., 2877 Lawrence St. in Denver, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

· Samaritan House, 2301 Lawrence St. in Denver, from 5 to 8:30 p.m. seven days per week.

The city pays Aloft Hotel and others to provide rooms to people experiencing homelessness at risk for COVID.

How the city prioritizes affordable housing

According to Polly Kyle of the city's Department of Housing Stability, or HOST, in 2022, Denver plans to:

· Create and preserve 1,400 or more affordable homes

· Serve 6,000 or more households in stability programs

· House at least 1,400 households experiencing homelessness

· Expand efforts to address unsheltered homelessness

· Advance critical policies that increase affordable housing supply

· Address involuntary displacement

In a presentation to the council, Kyle said more than 115,000 residents pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing. Involuntary displacement, when a family can't stay in their home due to rising housing costs, is common in Denver.

Helping displaced residents return

Denver hopes to help displaced residents return to their neighborhoods with a new policy for prioritizing affordable housing. For newly constructed buildings, 30 percent of affordable units would be prioritized to lessees and buyers using a point system. Applicants must also meet income guidelines and receive points when:

· The applicant is or was a Denver resident for 5-9 continuous years, 10 points.

· The applicant is or was a Denver resident for 10-14 continuous years, 5 points.

· The applicant is or was a Denver resident for 15 or more continuous years, 5 points.

· The applicant was displaced or at risk of displacement from a neighborhood where they lived for at least 5 years where an affordable housing development is built, 5 points.

· The applicant has generational ties to a neighborhood where a parent, grandparent, or primary guardian was displaced, 5 points.

· The applicant is doubled up in housing or is experiencing homelessness, 3 points.

· The applicant or member of the household has a disability, 2 points.

· The applicant has children eligible to be in Denver Public Schools, 2 points.

"These are just points, they don't guarantee that you're going to get a unit," City Councilmember Robin Kniech said.

But she said the policy gives affordable housing applicants "the choice of choosing a place that you have ties to."

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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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