May 8, 2024 - News

Denver wants families to host migrants through 211 program

A family of Venezuelan immigrants in Denver. Photo: Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Denver leaders and nonprofits are pursuing pricey paths to provide shelter for immigrants arriving from the southern U.S. border.

Why it matters: The city is continuing to spend millions to address the influx of newcomers as it prepares for what local officials expect will be another surge of people in late spring.

The latest: Mayor Mike Johnston's administration is attempting to buy a gymnasium and an adjacent 0.6-acre undeveloped lot in the Athmar Park neighborhood for $4 million to house immigrant families.

  • The roughly 10,000-square-foot gym can fit 120 people and is owned by Denver Community Church, which has been leasing it to the city for $3,500 a month since early 2023.
  • For the last year, the space has offered "critical support" and been a "key piece of Denver's efforts to keep families safely off the street," Lisa Lumley, Denver's real estate director, said Tuesday to council members, who will vote on the sale in coming weeks.
  • Should the shelter no longer be needed for immigrants — if the city decides to buy it — Denver leaders will seek community input on ways to repurpose it, Lumley noted.

Meanwhile, new local nonprofit Hope Has No Borders launched a donation-based program this month to help match immigrants with community members who have spare space to house them for up to 90 days.

  • Interested hosts can call 211 to sign up and are eligible for one-time stipends up to roughly $2,000 to help offset costs for living expenses including utilities and groceries.
  • All hosts and migrants undergo background checks and conflict resolution assistance is available should issues arise, executive director Andrea Ryall tells us.

Zoom in: Prospective hosts are asked a series of intake questions to be approved. Many of them mirror those asked in foster care programs, ranging from whether weapons are kept in the house to availability to drive someone to an appointment.

  • "We're trying to make really wise matches that are going to lead to long-term stability," Ryall says. The goal is to put immigrants in a position where they're working or, at minimum, waiting on their work permit to arrive.

Context: The nonprofit was born from the Highlands Moms & Neighborhoods grassroots movement, which has played a significant role in helping immigrants access basic needs, including food and housing.

  • Ryall started the Facebook group last November and has grown it to more than 8,000 members.

What's next: Ryall says Hope Has No Borders plans to launch an option for immigrants in need of housing to be able to call 211 to be connected with compatible community members.

  • That component will be dependent on funding, however, which has not been granted by the city and was recently denied by the state.
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