Jan 10, 2024 - News

Denver's looming cold snap to collide with ongoing migrant crisis

People pack and prepare to leave the largest migrant encampment near Denver's Zuni Street and relocate to shelters on Jan. 3. Photo: Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Denver is scrambling to make room in its emergency shelters for migrants sleeping in tents ahead of a looming storm that's expected to slam the city with brutally cold temperatures.

Why it matters: Dozens of migrants arriving from the southern border remain stranded on the street, and most — who have little to no experience with single-digit temperatures — are ill-prepared for the winter weather.

  • Meanwhile, hundreds of people experiencing homelessness will be competing for the same strapped resources.

Driving the news: The city has suspended its 14-day shelter limit for individual adult migrants while its cold weather shelters remain open through Jan. 15, Denver Human Services spokesperson Jon Ewing tells Axios Denver.

What they're saying: "The issue that that creates in some ways is if you're not discharging people — and we're already pretty much close to capacity at this point with where we're at in hotels — it makes it very challenging to create space," Ewing says.

  • "We're getting by day to day at this point of creating space," he adds.

Of note: To make even more room, city officials are asking migrant families staying in city-sponsored hotel rooms to bunk up together — even if they don't know each other, Axios Denver has learned.

  • Advocates tell us the doubling- and even tripling-up of families in a single space is presenting new safety concerns about sleeping next to strangers.

What we're watching: On Thursday morning, local officials are planning to evacuate the city's second-largest migrant encampment near Fox Street and 48th Avenue — where roughly 50 tents are located — and move its residents to congregate shelters in a similar way they did last week.

The big picture: The city's migrant crisis has hit a "breaking point," according to Mayor Mike Johnston, who is now looking to slash city spending to help address the worsening problem, Denverite reports.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that city officials are planning to evacuate a migrant encampment Thursday.

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