Jul 1, 2021 - News

Denver plans to house the homeless in hotels post-pandemic

A person experiencing homelessness packing up their tent on a sidewalk

Photo: Hyoung Chang/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

What was once a temporary solution to house Denver's homeless is now on track to becoming a permanent one.

Driving the news: In a press conference Wednesday, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said the third and final pillar of his post-pandemic recovery strategy includes purchasing underutilized hotels and motels for unhoused residents.

  • He stressed that unsanctioned campsites "are not an option" and that he is still planning to launch a "civilian enforcement team" to clear them.

Why it matters: Colorado leaders and homeless advocates see hotels as one of several pandemic-era solutions that have illuminated new ways of addressing Denver's soaring homelessness problem.

  • The announcement builds on Hancock's plan to secure an additional $2 million in federal funding to buy the Stay Inn Hotel downtown for residents experiencing homelessness.

Catch up quick: A newly signed state bill will funnel $15 million to local governments and nonprofits to rent, buy and renovate hotels, motels and other underutilized property for people who need homes.

  • Another pandemic-era solution includes 24/7 managed, sanctioned campsites, one of which just opened in Denver's affluent Park Hill neighborhood — though not without controversy.
  • The city also recently opened a new 24-hour shelter at 48th Street Shelter, where Hancock held his Wednesday press conference.

State of play: As the city announces investments in new housing solutions, Denver officials also are sweeping more homeless camps in the first six months of this year than they did in all of 2020, the Denver Post reports.

  • Between the lines: The numbers of tents on street corners in Denver is becoming a political flashpoint, and Republicans are using it against Democratic leaders in the city.

The big picture: More than 4,000 people are experiencing homelessness in Denver, according to the latest count in 2020 — and advocates expect that number to be even higher in the wake of the pandemic.


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