By David Heitz / NewsBreak Denver
(Denver, Colo.) Several homeless residents of Quality Inn hotel on Zuni Street say they have nowhere to go now that the city is kicking them out.
Hundreds of people experiencing homelessness have stayed at Quality Inn and other hotels as part of the city’s COVID response. Some have stayed at Quality Inn and other hotels as long as two years. The city is using federal funds to pay for the rooms.
But residents of Quality Inn received notices last week informing them they need to find new shelter. Quality Inn is ceasing operation as a homeless shelter Sept. 16. Several residents packed the Denver City Council chambers Monday and shared their plight with elected officials.
‘We have people who are 85 years old’
A speaker named Ana told the council some residents of the hotel could be dead by December without housing. “We have people who are 85 years old. We have people who don’t know how to read or use a computer to use their (housing) voucher.”
Several speakers said case managers from Colorado Coalition for the Homeless are overworked. They said they only get to meet with case managers once per week.
A man, Che D, said he has heart problems and is worried he may end up back on the street. He said his case manager told him there will be a lottery. “My grandmother said a closed mouth don’t get fed.”
One Quality Inn resident said she is 83 and will have housing after September 15. But she worries about those who don’t. She said priority must be given to the sick and the elderly. “There are many young people there who would not die of COVID.” Research from New York University Langone Health has shown that people with schizophrenia have the second-highest risk factor for contracting COVID next to age.
Other homeless hotels remain open
On Wednesday, a council committee likely will extend contracts with Colorado Coalition for the Homeless and Salvation Army to continue managing other hotels as shelters. More than $1.6 million would be added to the Coalition’s contract, for a total of almost $40 million since March of 2020. The Salvation Army has been paid almost $26 million since April 2020.
Homeless activist group surveys residents
Housekeys Action Network Denver, a non-profit that advocates for people experiencing homelessness, surveyed 39 residents of Quality Inn. They found:
· Only 12.8 percent of them had housing lined up, although 5.1 percent said they need to stay in the shelter for several more weeks until their housing is ready. The remaining 87.2 percent do not have housing arrangements.
· 51.3 percent said they “have no idea where to go,” and 23.1 percent said they will be “forced outside in the streets.”
· 5.1 percent reported being told by case managers that they’ll have a bed at a walk-in shelter “reserved” for them.
· One person that they will have motel arrangements for one week.
“Residents were told that only the top 10 most at-risk individuals would move to Aloft (hotel),” according a Housekeys Action Network news release.
Fear of going back to shelters
Residents reported fear of going back to congregant shelters. “Last one I stayed at had mice and men were fighting over beds, (wall outlet) plug-ins, even in the shower,” one resident explained. “I've been diagnosed with a heart aneurysm, so shelters won't work for me. Staying here I could take a shower and stay clean; I can't do that at a shelter. I have plans, I want to upgrade my life.”
One of the speakers Monday said he stopped staying at congregant shelters because someone stole from him. He does not want to go back. “If there is anything you can do to help us it would be greatly appreciated,” the man, who calls himself Tater, said.
Case managers need help
According to the news release, 35 residents remarked about case management services, including:
· 60 percent of respondents said the case management they received was not helpful. Reasons included, “Case manager is reason we lost apartment,” “She told me it's closing but didn't offer plan," "Case manager said going somewhere, hasn't said where yet,” “I haven't talked with her about any tangible solutions… been waiting 5 years for SSI and housing" and "Not doing anything, not passing info about shelter programs. Case manager needs to be proactive."
· 25.7 percent said their case managers were trying but lack resources.
· 14.3 percent said their case manager is helpful.
The Denver City Council does not respond to comments made during public comment period. The Department of Housing Stability did not respond to a request for comment.