Dec 6, 2022 - News

How Denver will use hotels to house the unhoused

A hotel used by the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless to shelter people at high risk for COVID on Sept. 2, 2021 in Denver. Photo: RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

After sheltering people experiencing homelessness in hotels at the height of the pandemic, Denver wants to build on the idea to provide more permanent housing options.

Driving the news: The city will use $20 million from $154 million in American Rescue Plan Act money approved by the Denver City Council last week to buy hotels for housing and sheltering purposes.

  • The city also received a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to buy the Stay Inn in the Central Park neighborhood.
  • Denver's chief housing officer Britta Fisher tells Axios other properties like apartment buildings could be considered for the same use.

Why it matters: Using what it learned from rooms made available for unhoused people who were vulnerable to COVID-19, the city intends to provide a similar resource for a greater number of people in need.

  • At least 505 individuals who, since the program's 2020 start, stayed in these units — called protective action rooms — were able to gain permanent housing, Fisher said.
  • Overall, 4,794 people have stayed in protective action rooms and rooms made available to those recovering from COVID-19, HOST spokesperson Derek Woodbury tells Axios.

State of play: The city recently spent nearly $6 million to help run hotels for sheltering.

  • A $5 million contract with the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless was approved in September for the agency's purchase of the former La Quinta Inn at 3500 Park Ave. West, with a long-term goal of turning the site into 200 units of supportive housing.
  • The nonprofit Fax Partnership this fall purchased two neighboring motels on East Colfax, and plans to initially use them for temporary shelter before demolishing the structures to build affordable housing. Using ARPA money, the city is chipping in $983,456 to help The Fax run the temporary space.

What they're saying: "People are very grateful for the space, very glad to have their own room, very glad to have the ability to come and go as needed," Terese Howard, of the Housekeys Action Network Denver, tells Axios Denver about what she's heard from people who've stayed at hotels.

Reality check: The program still has work to do to help those it's serving, according to some people who have stayed in the rooms.

  • Howard said most residents at the Quality Inn surveyed by the network said they were unhappy with the case management to help find permanent housing.

Meanwhile, those who stayed at the Quality Inn at 2601 Zuni St. felt blindsided after the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, contracted by the city to run the hotel, sent a notice telling residents they needed to leave by Sept. 16 after its lease expire

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