Denver’s homeless shelters will see improvements in 2024, according to a budget hearing Thursday for the Department of Housing Stability.
The 2024 budget for HOST includes $2.8 million in improvements at the shelter at 4600 48th Ave. The budget includes $1.1 million in improvements at the 4330 48th Ave. shelter
The shelter at 4600 48th Ave. houses more than 450 men and is operated by Denver Rescue Mission. The shelter at 4330 48th Ave. houses 270 women and is run by Catholic Charities. The city also owns the Crossroads shelter operated by Salvation Army at 1901 29th St. It holds about 300 men.
City Council member Paul Kashmann said he recently made a surprise visit to Crossroads. He said when he walked into the restroom, he saw sinks falling out of the wall. He said the ceiling contained what appeared to be acoustic tile with mold on it. “It made me see rather quickly why some people would want to be on the street.”
He said Crossroads staff told him repairs were imminent. HOST staff said the repairs have been postponed so as not to decrease shelter capacity during the winter months. “What I saw did not merit postponement,” Kashmann said. “I’ll make time to stop by and have another look.” HOST staff members said they are in the process of planning shelter tours for council members.
In May, a City Council committee agreed to transfer $2.9 million to pay for shelter improvements at Crossroads and the women’s shelter. Council member Amanda Sawyer called shelters “a band-aid to make sure people can come off the streets when it’s cold. It’s not housing.”
Enough money for rental assistance?
Also, during the budget hearing, several members of council asked whether the city has budgeted enough money for eviction prevention and rental assistance. According to a presentation by city staff, $8.8 million has been budgeted for Temporary Rental and Utility Assistance, or TRUA. Council member Flor Alvidrez said much of the money goes to lawyers instead of being spent on rent. HOST staff said people experiencing eviction tend to fare better when they have representation. Without it, many lose their case, they said.
According to HOST data, so far there have been 6,800 eviction filings in Denver from January to July of this year.
HOST staff said the budget can be altered mid-year if it turns out more money is needed for eviction prevention and rental assistance. Council member Shontel Lewis said she would like the city to create a public-facing homeless dashboard that shows how people are being helped. It not only would demonstrate transparency but would help answer “where are service gaps and are we perpetuating problems we are trying to solve?” Lewis said.
Getting homeless people off the street and into shelter is a top priority for Mayor Mike Johnston. He said during the hearing that Denver has now surpassed San Francisco for the American city with the highest commercial vacancy rate. People don’t want to lease buildings that are surrounded by encampments, he said.