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People experiencing homeless near Samaritan House and the Denver Rescue Mission in downtown Denver. Photo: RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Colorado leaders see underutilized hotels as part of the next solution to housing the homeless, and federal and state lawmakers may provide the money to make it happen.

Why it matters: Prompted by the pandemic, this is Denver's new approach to moving people experiencing homelessness off the street and into a more stable environment.

  • Advocates say it could be a more long-term solution for the estimated 6,104 unhoused Coloradans in the metro area, compared with the city’s sanctioned homeless encampments, which have been unwelcome by some residents and even sparked a lawsuit by a group of neighbors in Park Hill.

Driving the news: Democratic state lawmakers advanced a bill yesterday that would funnel $15 million to local governments and nonprofits to rent, buy and renovate hotels, motels and other unfrequented properties for people who need homes.

  • Plus: Colorado's U.S. Rep. Dianna Degette joined Denver Mayor Michael Hancock last week to announce their plan to secure an additional $2 million in federal funding to buy the Stay Inn Hotel downtown for those unsheltered.

Flashback: Two months before the pandemic hit Colorado, nonprofit partners of the state purchased a Quality Inn & Suites in Denver and reopened it as a 139 micro-apartment complex for individuals and couples experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

Yes, but: Concerns remain around the effectiveness of hotel programs long-term, whether there will be enough staff, or if it's financially sustainable.

  • Denver has racked up a $27 million bill renting roughly 800 rooms to as many as 1,100 people a night throughout the pandemic — a cost the Hancock administration expects will be covered by the federal government, BusinessDen reports.

What they're saying: Hotels "provide that immediate housing people need in order for them to stabilize and get on a path to finding a stable job and stable and more permanent housing," State Sen. Julie Gonzales (D-Denver) said Tuesday of the bill she's sponsoring.

The big picture: Buying hotels to house the homeless is an idea that's been explored in other cities in Colorado — like Aurora — and is taking off in states along the West Coast, including California, Oregon and Washington, Stateline reports.

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Go deeper

Aug 19, 2021 - Axios Twin Cities

Encampments become wedge issue in Minneapolis Park Board races

Last summer, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board permitted camping in some parks. Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Image

The homeless encampments that sprang up at Minneapolis parks following the murder of George Floyd and subsequent riots last summer loom large over this year's park board elections.

Driving the news: 23 candidates are running for nine Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board seats up for grabs in November.

  • And some of them have reported hefty fundraising totals for a part-time job that pays $12,000 a year and rarely acts as a stepping stone to a higher office.

The big picture: The park board permitted the encampments in June of 2020 after residents were displaced by the riots and COVID-19.

  • Though they're no longer allowed, the decision has become a major issue in the race for District 4, which represents downtown and the neighborhoods just southwest of there.

What they're saying: Candidate Elizabeth Shaffer — who has raised $44,000 in her campaign— said park board leaders failed when they allowed the encampments and didn't listen to neighbors' complaints.

  • "Most people really felt like the encampments of last summer were a poor decision — it was not well thought out before it was enacted," she told Axios.

The other side: Incumbent and current park board president Jono Cowgill — who's nearly doubled his fundraising from 2017 to about $6,700 — said the city was responding to a major challenge caused by displacement of "mostly brown and Black" people during the civil unrest.

  • He noted the park board mobilized a response team to get people out of the parks and connected to services.
  • "This year we haven't had hardly any, if at all, encampments in the (park) system," he said.

Zoom out: The issue is also playing out in other races. In District 6, for example, candidate Risa Hustad volunteered at an encampment last year and said on her website "using our park as a safe shelter is a legitimate use of the parks."

  • "I think we can support the outreach staff that we already have in setting up processes and building relationships with other agencies in the city and county to make sure that when a person finds themselves taking shelter on public lands, they're given resources and access to things that they need and deserve," she told Axios.
Updated 32 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Trump sues New York Times and his niece over tax report

Former President Trump hosting a boxing match in Hollywood, Florida on Sept. 11. Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

Former President Trump filed a $100 million lawsuit against the New York Times and his niece Mary Trump on Tuesday over the news outlet's reporting on his tax records, the Daily Beast first reported.

Details: The lawsuit, filed in New York's Dutchess County, alleges NYT journalists "engaged in an insidious plot to obtain confidential and highly-sensitive records" and that it "convinced" Mary Trump to "smuggle records out of her attorney's office and turn them over to The Times."

House passes government funding, debt ceiling bill

Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

The House passed a bill on Tuesday to fund the government through early December, along with a measure to raise the debt ceiling through December 2022.

Why it matters: The stopgap measure, which needs to be passed to avoid a government shutdown when funding expires on Sept. 30, faces a difficult journey in the Senate where at least ten Republicans would need to vote in favor.