Jan 23, 2024 - News

These Denver businesses are getting grants to help with harm from homeless camps

Where select Denver small businesses received grants due to impacts of homeless encampments
Data: City of Denver; Map: Axios Visuals

From bars and breweries to bridal shops and beauty salons, 69 Denver businesses are getting money to offset the negative consequences of nearby homeless encampments.

Why it matters: The unprecedented initiative highlights the magnitude of the city's homelessness crisis despite a camping ban, the escalating tolls it's taking on local businesses and the need for innovative solutions.

Catch up quick: Small businesses affected by encampments within two blocks of their property were eligible for a one-time grant of $7,500 or $15,000, depending on their annual gross revenues, if they could provide evidence of slumping sales and related safety issues.

Zoom in: City data provided to Axios Denver shows the majority of grants awarded this month went to businesses near the Five Points neighborhood, a longstanding hotspot for unhoused people due in part to nearby homeless shelters.

Zoom out: Dozens of local businesses outside of Five Points also received money, including Metropolis Coffee in the Baker neighborhood, DiFranco's and Hudson Hill near Capitol Hill, Strange Craft Beer Company in Lincoln Park, and Sullivan Scrap Kitchen in City Park West.

The intrigue: At least one of the businesses that received a $15,000 grant — Blue Bridal Boutique on South Broadway — has permanently closed, Axios Denver found.

  • City officials tell us they are in the process of contacting the boutique to determine its closure date and "how it will impact our award decision."

The other side: Some businesses that say they were hard hit by homeless encampments and applied for aid were snubbed by the city.

  • "We went through eight months of hell and all we received in return was a slap in the face," Sam Menendez and Jason Danielsen, co-owners of indoor golf and cocktail bar One Shot Back, told us by email.
  • "We had trash everywhere on the streets, from needles to crack pipes!" they wrote. "Our employees were scared for their lives doing simple tasks such as taking the trash to the dumpster," and one had their car muffler stolen and mirror ripped off.
  • "You had blatant drug dealing in the open, which brought a dangerous crowd," they added. "We lost parties because of that camp."

The big picture: The latest cash infusions are part of a series of federal relief grants disbursed since 2022 to help ensure "businesses can survive and thrive" post-COVID, Denver Mayor Mike Johnston said in a statement when the program was announced in November.

  • Over the last two years, the city has given out nearly $6.7 million in federal funds to help more than 500 Denver businesses bounce back from the pandemic, city statistics show.
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