Denver, CO

Denver 2023 homeless budget: Quarter of a billion dollars

David Heitz

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The cover of Denver's 2023 plan to address homelessness.City and County of Denver

By David Heitz / NewsBreak Denver

(Denver, Colo.) Denver’s plan to address homelessness in 2023 contains 56 pages and is backed by a quarter of a billion dollar budget, but it won’t even come close to housing everyone living on the streets.

The plan calls for creating and preserving 1,700 affordable homes by “investment in the affordable housing pipeline, strategic acquisition of hotels, and successful implementation of the new Mandatory Affordable Housing ordinance.”

The city’s Department of Housing Stability, or HOST, will spend more than $254 million in 2023. It plans to serve more than 8,000 households with programs to prevent homelessness, including eviction legal defense programs (more than 1,700) and a new foreclosure prevention and legal assistance program (250 households).

HOST has a new name for encampment sweeps in 2023. “Encampment decommissioning strategies” will help “at least 100 households per year experiencing unsheltered homelessness connect to stability through housing navigation and other services, and by continuing to support safe outdoor space and safe parking programs,” according to the plan.

Safe outdoor spaces, such as legal tent villages and tiny homes, are temporary solutions. According to Housekeys Action Network, or HAND, a homeless advocacy group, only 250 permanent housing solutions will be added under HOST’s plan for 2023.

‘Less than 1 percent of the need’

“With a reported shortage of 19,000 units for people at or below 30 percent (average median income, or AMI) plus an estimate of at least 10,000 houseless people (doubling the Point in Time count) we need at least 29,000 units under 30 percent AMI,” HAND reported Friday. “That means these 219 units in 2023 are meeting less than 1 percent of the need.”

As for a new moniker for encampment sweeps, “This language is used to make it sound like they are doing something new, when in reality, they still plan to sweep people living at encampments to nowhere - further criminalizing and endangering their lives, isolating them from community and resources as they go deeper into hiding,” HAND stated in a news release.

Shelters now ‘navigation centers’

Denver also has a new name for shelters – “navigation centers.” Councilmember Candi CdeBaca called the new name a “rebranding” of the shelter system during budget hearings Thursday. CdeBaca tried to expand homeless services by defunding the police, but her council colleagues did not go along.

“Instead of building housing, HOST plans to use $23 million of ARPA funds to buy hotels and turn them into ‘navigation centers’ where people will be stuffed in rooms with multiple people in bunk beds and treated as shelter guests,” HAND reported. “This same funding could be used to buy hotels to be turned into housing, as other funding is planned for, rather than this unnecessary intermediate step.”

Other HOST priorities for 2023

HOST also will make it easier in 2023 to own a home. Down payment assistance programs will assist “households impacted by historic practices like redlining and support more development of affordable for sale homes,” according to the plan.

For families, HOST plans to invest in hotels for those in need of shelter, “expanding housing-focused case management for those families and expanding supportive housing for families.”

The city also will commission a study to “document racial disparities and discrimination in housing in Denver and propose solutions that advance equity.”

Finally, HOST plans to develop “a data system to improve access to affordable housing citywide and help match residents with available affordable housing options.”

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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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