Mayor Hancock Presents Strategy for Housing and Homelessness Recovery

Published on June 30, 2021

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As part of the city’s overall pandemic-recovery plan, Mayor Michael B. Hancock today announced new and expanded strategies aimed at assisting unhoused residents and resolving homelessness throughout our community.

The Mayor and Department of Housing Stability (HOST) Executive Director Britta Fisher shared details of the recovery plan at a new 24/7 shelter capable of serving 450 men near Colorado Boulevard and 48th Avenue. The shelter opened last week and is operated by Denver Rescue Mission.

 “An episode of homelessness should be no more than a brief, one-time circumstance, and we must do everything in our power to stabilize our most vulnerable neighbors,” Mayor Hancock said. “The innovations and strategies we deployed to respond during the pandemic provided stronger outcomes for individuals experiencing homelessness. We will build on and expand these efforts in the months ahead to ensure an equitable recovery that prioritizes those with the greatest needs.”

The housing and homelessness strategies unveiled today are the third and final phase of the Mayor’s post-pandemic recovery plan. Mayor Hancock introduced an economic recovery plan in April, followed by crime-prevention strategies last month.

Key elements of the homeless-resolution strategy unveiled today include:

  • Accelerate plans to acquire and rehabilitate hotels and motels that can be converted to supportive housing. The City is currently working toward acquiring a 95-room hotel in northeast Denver and is eyeing additional acquisitions that may provide supportive housing much sooner than traditional housing development.
  • Expand the use of innovative solutions, such as Safe Outdoor Spaces, for those living outside to provide them with basic amenities, sanitation, rehousing support and other services that don’t exist in unmanaged encampments.
  • Leverage existing partnerships with key organizations like the Denver Housing Authority to more quickly connect unhoused residents with available apartments through a surge in vouchers.
  • Enhance programs that proved to be invaluable during the pandemic, such as rental assistance, utility assistance and eviction protection services.
  • Grow the pipeline of new housing developments, and the preservation of existing homes, to support people across a wide range of income levels. This will not only create new affordable housing, but it also will create new jobs.

Today’s announcement took place at Denver’s newest 24/7 shelter for individuals experiencing homelessness. The shelter represents the latest in Denver’s residential sheltering efforts, with a number of amenities to encourage people on the streets to come inside, including case management, three daily meals, USB charging and storage at bed locations, laundry facility for guests, and space for a future pet kennel area. The shelter will also include an integrated health clinic to be operated by the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, providing mental and physical health care services onsite for guests. The City and County of Denver acquired the facility through a 10-year lease, which includes a contract option to potentially purchase the facility. The opening of this location also enabled the former men’s shelter at 4330 E. 48th Ave. to be converted to the largest women’s shelter in Denver’s history, with 500 beds.

“The solution to homelessness is housing, and we’re pulling every lever possible to meet the needs of our community,” HOST Executive Director Fisher said. “We learned many lessons throughout the pandemic, and we’re building on those lessons now through expanded efforts made possible thanks to greater local and federal funds.”

Despite initially having to cut the number of shelter beds in half for social distancing, a year into the pandemic, the city’s network of shelters served nearly 2,100 people nightly, a 54% increase from March 2020, prior to the pandemic. What’s more, Denver’s shelter network transformed from an overnight model to providing 24/7 residential sheltering services, which in turn provide guests with greater stability during the day, including for personal belongings.

In the first year of the pandemic, the City and provider partners served 12,524 unique households with shelter or services.

  • More than 8,200 used day shelters
  • More than 7,700 used overnight and 24-hour congregate shelter services
  • Over 3,000 people stayed in emergency shelter programs at hotels and motels
  • 2,500 households received rent and utility assistance to help them stay in their homes
  • And more than 1,800 households were supported in housing programs to help get them back on their feet.

You can learn more about the city’s housing and homelessness efforts at denvergov.org/housing.