May 6, 2024 - News

Denver mayor cuts funding for parking sites for homeless

Illustration of a pattern of no parking signs.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Denver Mayor Mike Johnston is pulling the plug on his predecessor's plans to expand the number of city-sanctioned spots for people experiencing homelessness to sleep in their cars.

Why it matters: The decision, which comes as thousands of people remain unhoused, marks a 180-degree turn from previous Mayor Michael Hancock's efforts last year to double the number of safe parking sites from two to four.

Context: Parking lots at First Universalist Church of Denver and First Baptist Church currently serve as safe sites, allowing eight cars per location to stay overnight.

State of play: Johnston is slashing two-thirds from $600,000 in additional funding for the Colorado Safe Parking Initiative and cutting CSPI's contract short by one year. The contract is backed by federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars and was approved by city leaders last June.

  • The new contract means CSPI can continue operating the two existing sites through 2024 — including screening and approving candidates, plus providing basic services like portable toilets. But it won't be given money the city previously pledged to provide for more lots.
  • The Denver City Council approved the mayor's move on Monday.

What they're saying: The contract change resulted from concerns over CSPI's "challenges with spending and reporting," Johnston's spokesperson Jose Salas tells us.

  • The amended agreement will allow the city to use its "limited resources in the most effective way" to address homelessness, Salas says, though the Johnston administration is "still working through specifics of what this will look like."

The other side: CSPI executive director Terrell Curtis told BusinessDen that those issues had been corrected and that the nonprofit had already signed a contract for a third location when it learned funding was being scaled back.

  • She also knocked the Johnston administration for focusing on housing people who are the most visible in the city.
  • "There's a lot of other people who work really hard to remain invisible … We always have requests for support we can't meet," she said.
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