Denver council considering $3.9 million deal to run homeless camps | Government

Denver could spend $3.9 million to expand its managed homeless camp program this year, as the city council’s housing committee is set to vote Wednesday on a contract amendment allocating the funds.

If approved by the board, the contract would fund at least four camps operated by Colorado Village Collaborative through the end of 2022, housing about 370 people throughout the year. This would bring the total funding for the program to just under $4.8 million.

Colorado Village Collaborative now operates three of the camps, called Safe Outdoor Spaces, in parking lots at the Human Services East Office, Regis University and Denver Health. There have been a total of six camps across the city since the program began in late 2020.

Campsites are gated and staffed 24/7, providing residents with heated tents, bathrooms, laundry services, internet, food, dental care, COVID-19 testing and services to find permanent housing. By the end of 2021, the Colorado Village Collaborative said the camps had housed more than 120 people, with 17 moving into longer-term housing, 18 finding jobs and almost all attending more than 350 case management appointments.

The $3.9 million is said to come from the American Rescue Plan Act‘s COVID-19 recovery funds. The spending plan, including managed homeless camps, was already approved by city council in November. Only Councilwoman Amanda Sawyer voted against the plan.

“I’m just not willing to support $4 million for safe outdoor spaces,” Sawyer said during a November board meeting. “It’s something my district really cares about. This money is for long-term investments and SOS sites are not a long-term solution.

Councilman Chris Hinds, whose District 10 was home to the city’s first two safe outdoor spaces, defended the funding, calling the program transformative and an option for homeless residents who don’t want to be separated from their partners or of their pets in regular shelters.

“We are in a housing crisis right now and while I don’t think safe outdoor spaces are an appropriate long-term solution, we need mid to long-term solutions,” Hinds said. “Safe Outdoor Spaces is an incredible option that we have added to our tool belt for the city.”

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The spending plan included a total of $50.3 million for housing and homeless services. Of that amount, other significant allocations included $28 million for the Affordable Housing Fund and $7.47 million for 48th Avenue Homeless Shelter operations.

On Wednesday, the housing committee will also vote on contracts that would allocate $1.025 million to US Motels Denver North for overflow homeless shelters, $1.7 million to Elevation Community Land Trust for accession units to Limited Income Property and $3.732 million to Colorado Village Collaborative for Denver Street. Collaborative and strategic outreach programs at large camps.

In 2021, there were 5,530 homeless people living in shelters in the Denver metro area, according to an annual tally. According to Denver Department of Housing Stability estimates, another 1,185 people lived in the city without shelter.

A Metro Denver Homeless Initiative study released earlier this month found that the number of homeless people in metro Denver is likely much higher than previously thought, with about 40% of the population homeless. outdoor living shelter.

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