A man who owns property next to the Comfort Inn where Denver migrants are being sheltered said children frolic on his property, “riding on scooters unaccompanied” and climbing up buildings to play on the roof.
“We’ve got kids on roofs, kids on scooters unaccompanied” reported a man during a recent town hall meeting on the mayor’s House1000 plan. The meeting was held last week and focused on the former Best Western Hotel, which the city has purchased and renamed New Directions.
A representative of Salvation Army told the man the children need a play area. He said the Salvation Army purchased playground equipment, but the children destroyed it in eight hours "kids being kids" and "we want to make sure we have a safe place for kids.”
The city does not own the Comfort Inn. Denver leases blocks of rooms for the migrants. The rooms are managed by the Salvation Army.
Encampments sprout near hotels
Encampments have formed near hotels housing migrants. Migrants are allowed to stay in shelters for less than a month before they must move on. Many are now sleeping on the street or have migrated into the city’s traditional shelter system.
According to the city’s online migrant dashboard, 91 new migrants arrived in Denver Friday despite the snowstorm. Eight more had arrived by 3 p.m. Saturday. The city is sheltering approximately 2,100 migrants, mostly in hotels but also 48 people in city buildings.
Amy Beck, an advocate for unhoused people, told the City Council Monday that the problem of young migrant children living on the streets is getting worse. She acknowledged that many council members have visited the encampments. “I know you all care and I see that and appreciate that.”
She said there is a waiting list for homeless families that need shelter with 180 names on it. And, she says, they all are people who got on the list before the migrant crisis began. “These are families from our existing homeless population that were already here.”
Cultural, language barriers
Beck said she has heard Samaritan House and Denver Rescue Mission "is trying to avoid taking them in, hence the migrant camp located right there where the stabbing was on Thanksgiving."
In a statement, the Denver Rescue Mission said, "The Mission does not discourage anyone from accessing our services. We do have limited space but we would never discourage anyone from accessing Denver Rescue Mission services. Moreover, we do not know if an individual is a migrant when they come to the Mission unless they disclose that information to us."
Representatives of Catholic Charities could not immediately be reached over the holiday weekend for comment. This story will be updated if the author hears back.
Beck added, "There is tension between these two groups of homeless. There are definitely cultural and language barriers that need to be bridged so these two groups can co-exist."
Council wants a plan
Earlier this week, the City Council sent the mayor a letter requesting an action plan for sheltering the migrants. “We are requesting an update on the Border Migration Action Plan, initially provided in September 2022 under former Mayor (Michael) Hancock’s administration,” according to the letter dated Nov. 17. “As we navigate varying numbers of arrivals and in-shelter populations, ranging from 500 to 3,000 people, it is crucial to adapt and enhance our strategies to meet the evolving needs of those seeking refuge within our city and know how staffing and shelter is ramped up and down as those numbers and needs change.”
The letter applauds the mayor for his White House visit surrounding the migrant crisis, but says more planning is needed. ““A comprehensive review of lessons learned will strengthen our collective efforts in updating the action plan to address the unique challenges for Denver's new arrivals,” according to the letter. “Specifically, we seek information on the strategy for varying increments of people and in-shelter populations, with thoughtful considerations for special populations such as families with children and individuals with disabilities. Recognizing our new residents require access to housing, food, work authorization, and social services, we aspire to ensure their seamless integration into our community. Moreover, we are interested in an integration plan that streamlines the compassionate processing of immigration status.”