If Denver continues to absorb migrants at its current rate, the city will blow through its $20 million 2024 migrant response budget in just four months, Mayor Mike Johnston said this week.
The revelation came during the budget hearing for Denver Human Services on Thursday. Councilmember Serena Gonzales Guttierez said her office has been receiving telephone calls from migrant families already facing eviction from apartments social workers helped them get.
Mayor Mike Johnston said the problem is that the federal government does not allow undocumented migrants to work. If they can’t work, they can’t pay rent, he said.
Johnston said the migrants desperately want to work. He said the city receives calls from Home Depot about 100 people showing up in store parking lots searching for day labor.
“There are other cities that are refusing to shelter migrants, so they don’t arrive in their cities,” Johnston said. “We’re not doing that. There are cities that are refusing to pay onward travel, we’re not doing that.”
But Johnston said at the rate of $5,000 per person per month to shelter and feed the migrants, the city would expend the $20 million budgeted for the response in 2024 in just four months.
Migrants pouring in again
The migrant influx ebbed in July after peaking in May and June. But almost as soon as the mayor let lapse a city declaration of a migrant emergency, the immigrants began to pour in again.
The migrants continue to arrive in record numbers, according to a city dashboard tracking the influx. On Friday, 214 migrants arrived. Thursday the number was 257. These are some of the highest numbers seen on the dashboard in several weeks.
There are 1,455 migrants now being sheltered in Denver, according to the dashboard, many in hotels. The city has now served about 19,000 migrants since December 2022, according to the dashboard.
Some living in encampments
“It’s a complicated situation we’re seeing occur,” said DHS head Mimi Scheuermann. “They are past their shelter date, or they have moved along and now they find themselves homeless again.”
Migrant families are limited to 30 days in city-sponsored shelters. Singles can stay 21 days. Some who moved into housing with one-time rental assistance now are struggling to pay rent. “There’s a conversation of, ‘Are these now residents of Denver, and do we treat them as residents of Denver who are experiencing homelessness?” Scheuermann said.
For now, the city is treating immigrants found in homeless encampments like anyone else living in an encampment. They are being offered shelter services. Scheuermann said HOST has encountered families living on the street and is currently having conversations about how best to support them.
From ‘migrant’ to person experiencing homelessness
Council members said there needs to be a warm handoff between DHS and the Department of Housing Stability when a migrant goes into a regular homeless shelter.
Scheuermann said some families have begun to request extension of shelter stays based on the disabilities of their children. She said so far one request has been granted. She said DHS officials now are asking about children with special needs upon intake, instead of finding out when a family’s shelter time has run out.
Scheuermann said some of the latest migrants have not come directly from the southern border. They have come from other cities where they went first and could not find help and support.