Dec 4, 2023 - News

Denver marks a year since migrants began arriving in mass numbers

Photo illustration collage of the Denver County Courthouse next to migrants at a makeshift shelter in Denver, CO.

Photo illustration: Maura Losch/Axios; Photo: Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post via Getty Images

It's a crisis spanning two Denver mayors, costing at least $32 million and some 14,000 bus tickets.

Driving the news: At the center of it all are people. More than 29,000 migrants, primarily from Venezuela, have received help from the city since they began arriving in large numbers a year ago this week.

  • By contrast, roughly 140 people arrived during the first week of December 2022 β€” but at the time, it triggered an emergency response.

Zoom in: The migrants include people like Pedro Bordones, who's from Venezuela.

  • He told us in Spanish last month while standing outside a Home Depot trying to find work that his stay in a city-sponsored shelter helped him find his footing.
  • Luis Diaz, too, ended up staying in Denver after plans to stay with someone in Illinois fell through. "I saw more opportunity [here] instead of going to Chicago," he told us in Spanish last month.

Details: The city is working to hire on-call staff for Denver Human Services, which is overseeing the response to the crisis. DHS helps with staffing and provides services like shelter and food, spokesperson Jon Ewing told us.

Of note: It's offering a stipend for bilingual staff β€” Ewing didn't specify the amount β€” and is paying overtime for staff who work late nights and early mornings.

  • "It takes an incredible degree of empathy and toughness," Ewing tells us about the work.

State of play: New migrants are still arriving here. Officials tell us Denver is getting closer to presenting contracts to private companies to provide services to migrants, which they said could be made public in the next several weeks.

The intrigue: Sarah Kurz, chief impact officer for the Rose Community Foundation, tells us the philanthropic group organized a legal clinic to help migrants apply for temporary protected status and work permits.

Context: The foundation oversees the Newcomers Fund, which collects donations and uses them for grants for organizations assisting migrants in the metro area and around the state.

  • The fund has raised $1.5 million since launching last year, with money coming from more than 3,000 people and 15 charitable groups.
  • More recently, Kurz tells us it has received money and interest from corporations who see the foundation's clinics as providing the potential for additional workers.

What's next: Kurz says the foundation is organizing additional legal clinics, while Ewing says the city is planning on announcing a toy drive Monday for migrant children staying in shelters.


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