Some Denver City Council members expressed concerns Wednesday over two homeless contracts approved by the Safety, Housing, Education and Homelessness Committee of the council.
The committee agreed to award Colorado Coalition for the Homeless a $6.4 million contract for relocating encampments. Council member Amanda Sawyer asked how this contract would be different from other contracts aimed at doing the same thing. “We already have dumped significant amounts of money into this exact same thing,” Sawyer said.
City staff explained that the new outreach team will be able to move entire large encampments all at once. Encampment dwellers will be moved into pallet shelters, hotel rooms or rentals. They would be moved within 30 days of the point of first contract with the outreach workers.
But Sawyer criticized staff for continuing to have a “fragmented, siloed system.” Sawyer and council member Darrell Watson voted against the contract. “I just want to make sure we’re not just dumping good money after bad,” Sawyer said. The full City Council still must sign off on the contract.
Sawyer expressed concerns that some of the older housing for people experiencing homelessness in her district does not offer wraparound services. But city staff said not alll homeless people need wraparound services.
Outreach contract adds 21 jobs
Council member Sarah Parady wanted to know how many full-time equivalent positions would be created with the latest Coalition contract. City staff said 21 positions including nurses, case workers and housing navigators would be added.
Watson said some people staying in shelters have indicated they may move to encampments so they can get into pallet shelters quicker. But the city’s homeless czar, Cole Chandler, said the data shows that people are not moving from shelters to illegal encampments.
Watson expressed sympathy for business owners that are shutting down because of the encampments. Sawyer suggested a fund be created to help business owners impacted by encampments. City staff said encampments are still being swept.
Council member Paul Kashmann expressed concerns about enough money being set aside for maintenance on hotels the city has purchased. On Monday, the council agreed to spend $15.7 million on the Best Western Central Park hotel. The full City Council also still must sign off on the expenditure.
Some council members asked how the hotel rooms, pallets shelters, and other units will make an impact on homelessness while so many people are becoming newly homeless. City staff said Denver is taking a multi-pronged approach to homelessness which includes preventing people from becoming unhoused through rental assistance and eviction legal help.