Oct 3, 2023 - News

Questions remain about mayor's plan to house Denver's homeless

Denver Mayor Mike Johnston at a town hall on micro-community sites on Sept. 28 in the Civic Center neighborhood in Denver. Photo: Esteban L. Hernandez/Axios

Residents still have questions about a major part of Mayor Mike Johnston's plan to shelter 1,000 people this year.

Why it matters: The mayor has been trying to secure public support for his proposal to get Denverites out of homeless encampments by housing them in 11 micro-communities across the city.

What's happening: At multiple town halls throughout the city over the past three months, residents have voiced concerns about safety, who would be allowed to live in the communities and whether the public would get a final say on their locations.

State of play: Johnston's pitch is that Denver's homelessness crisis won't be solved if the city continues pursuing the same strategy and fails to provide adequate, dignified shelter and resources to keep people off the streets.

Yes, but: Residents in Holly Hills, an unincorporated area in Arapahoe County surrounded by Denver, are working together to oppose a proposed site nearby after feeling frustrated and fearful about the plans.

Context: The criteria for choosing sites included proximity to transit and schools, access to utilities and zoning and permitting standards, the mayor's office outlined.

  • Communities would be staffed 24/7, have rules and requirements for residents, and would house between 40 to 100 people depending on the lot size.

Zoom in: At a town hall last week in downtown council District 10, where the city is considering locating two micro-communities, neighbors including Paula Friedland questioned why their neighborhood was under consideration for multiple sites instead of just one.

  • The mayor told the more than 100 attendees that the area has the city's largest concentration of people experiencing homelessness, with an estimated 800 unhoused people.

But, but, but: Others in attendance last week expressed support for the idea, saying they wanted to figure out a way to make it work.

  • Bobbi Walker, a local business owner, told Axios she felt heard by the mayor during the meeting but wants a strong vetting process for those living in the communities before she can fully support the idea.

What's next: The mayor's administration says it will consider public feedback from the town halls before making a final decision on sites and that more informational meetings will follow once the permitting process begins


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Denver.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Denver stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Denver.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more