Denver, CO

Denver considers giving homeless coalition $5 million for hotel

David Heitz

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The former LaQuinta Inn at 3500 Park Avenue has become homeless housing.Google Street View

By David Heitz / NewsBreak Denver

(Denver, Colo.) The City and County of Denver may help Colorado Coalition for the Homeless add to its permanent housing stock.

The Safety, Housing, Education and Homelessness Committee advanced Monday to the full City Council a proposal to give the non-profit $5 million.The money would go toward costs of acquiring the former La Quinta Inn at 3500 Park Avenue West. The money would come from American Rescue Plan Act funds.

Even if the committee approves the expenditure, the full City Council would have to approve it, too.

The Coalition already owns the site and is using it as a non-congregant homeless shelter. Non-congregant shelters allow for couples and pets. The hotel currently is a protective action site, which means it houses people at risk for COVID.

Site would be razed, rebuilt after 2025

The hotel currently has 103 rooms. However, after 2025 the Coalition plans to scrape the site. They want to build a 200-unit development. The property would offer permanent supportive housing much like the former Quality Inn and Suites at 3737 Quebec. The Coalition bought that property and renamed it Fusion Studios.

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Fusion Studios, 3737 QuebecDavid Heitz

The city would place a 60-year covenant on the property to keep it affordable. It would remain a non-congregant shelter through 2025 before becoming permanent housing, according to the agreement.

Case management, psychiatric treatment

The $5 million comes with certain requirements by the city. According to backup material provided with the committee agenda, the city would require intensive case management, including:

· Access to a multidisciplinary treatment team, including nursing, case management, peer support, individual and group therapy and psychiatry and medication support.

· Housing stabilization. “(The Coalition) must provide assistance in healing from trauma, addiction, mental health issues and homelessness,” according to materials provided by city staff. This would be accomplished “through assessment, treatment planning, benefit acquisition, care coordination, and crisis response. These interventions will support long-term housing stability.”

· Linkage to community supports. “(The Coalition) must work to develop community supports through engagement, socialization, life skills, peer activities, and vocational programming,” according to the backup documents.

City would require minimum staffing

The city also would require the property to meet certain staffing requirements. “Services must provide for at least one staff person for every 15 supportive housing units,” according to the backup materials. “Staff must have the relevant education and experience needed to implement supportive services, as determined by the State of Colorado Office of Homeless Initiatives.”

Tenants would not be required to use the supportive services. “In addition, services are expected to be implemented in a manner reliant on current best practice models, including Housing First, harm reduction and trauma-informed care,” the backup materials state.

The city would require the Coalition to have a budget of at least $7,200 per unit per year not counting operating expenses, according to the agreement.

Councilmember says more units needed now

Councilmember Amanda Sawyer said during the meeting the additional housing is not coming online fast enough. Megan Yonke of the city's Department of Housing Stability said much work needs to be done at the site before building.

Sawyer praised the use of ARPA funds for permanent housing. Last week, she voted against a contract for a legal tent village in the city because she said it's not a long-term solution. “ARPA is a pot of gold that we’ll never see again. It should be used for long-term support, not fishing tents.”

Yonke indicated that several more supportive housing projects will come before the council in the days ahead. The city plans to add 900 housing units for people experiencing homelessness in the next few years, she said.

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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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