May 12, 2021 - News

Colorado turns to hotels in push to address homelessness

Photo of people experiencing homeless on a street in downtown Denver

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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