City and County of Denver building lit up at night time

March 2021 Homelessness Update

Homelessness continues to be the number one issue constituents contact the District 10 office about in early 2021. We are seeing early successes with the two Safe Outdoor Spaces in Uptown and Capitol Hill, and we are also seeing a huge and continued need for additional resources and housing support for those experiencing homelessness.

On February 23, 2021, the District 10 Council Office partnered with the Mayor’s Office for a virtual Cabinet in the Community meeting (CIC). In the weeks leading up to the event, District 10 staff worked to develop a program that was relevant to the priorities of District 10 constituents. Britta Fisher, the Director of HOST, presented information about her department’s 2021 Action Plan, including a new contract with the Colorado Village Collaborative (CVC), totaling $899,569, for the operation of two Safe Outdoor Space sites with amenities and services for up to 100 households. The SOS sites are working well, as you’ll read later in this post, with people moving up the homelessness spectrum into housing and people receiving services, including medical and dental care.

In the same week as the District 10 CIC, Denver announced a partnership between the City’s 311 system and the Early Intervention Team to deprioritize law enforcement response in non-criminal matters. Reports about homeless encampments will now be routed to the Early Intervention Team rather than the Denver Police Department. Upon receiving a 311 report about an encampment, the outreach team will visit the site, assess the situation, and offer services to residents in need. This is socially responsible: civilians are better suited to interact with people experiencing homelessness than police. This is fiscally conservative: the civilians are more cost-effective than police and therefore free up budget for other uses. Finally, this approach frees up our police officers to respond to our city’s other issues that truly need police response.

We know the community is still struggling with a proliferation of unsanctioned camps. Most recently, our office has heard from many neighbors in the areas around 10th & Bannock and 12th & Elati in the Golden Triangle, 14th & Pearl in Capitol Hill, and near 18th & Emerson in Uptown. We continue to share these concerns with the Early Intervention Team, and the recent changes to the 311 system will help ensure the EIT is prepared with a proper response to prioritize connecting folks to housing and services and reduce conflicts with others in the neighborhood.

With the help of HOST, local service providers, and community members, Denver continues to refine and improve its approach to addressing homelessness. In 2020, thanks to the Safe Outdoor Space model that received its first true tests right here in District 10, Denver’s shelter system finally had shelter options for people with pets/service animals, people who wanted to remain with their partners, and people who use wheelchairs for mobility. Also, 2020 was the first time Denver had significant 24/7 shelter options; before 2020, our shelter solutions required guests to leave the shelter with all their belongings early in the morning. Also, just this week, Denver City Council just voted to approve a contract which will provide the first city-funded storage lockers for people experiencing homelessness (you can read more about that below).

The Council District 10 office started publishing monthly homelessness updates in November 2020 when we heard the need for more information about Denver’s plans to address homelessness immediately and into the future. For a look back at where we’ve come, here are the first four homelessness updates:

News from City Council

Denver City Council passed a trio of resolutions the evening of February 16, 2021, totaling nearly $24.3 million, aimed at assisting those experiencing homelessness and housing instability. The investments, led by Denver’s Department of Housing Stability, will greatly expand rent and utility assistance resources available to households facing financial hardship resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, funding is being provided to expand temporary managed campsites available in Denver for individuals experiencing homelessness.

On Monday, March 8, 2021, City Council again approved a series of contracts, totaling $15,642,843, to provide much-needed housing, shelter and services for people experiencing or transitioning out of homelessness. The contracts, administered by Denver’s Department of Housing Stability (HOST), include some of the first expenditures resulting from the new Homelessness Resolution Fund approved by Denver voters last November through ballot measure 2B.

Among the contracts approved is Valor on the Fax, a 72-unit affordable housing development that will soon begin construction at 7900 E. Colfax Ave. Developed by Brothers Redevelopment and the Brain Injury Alliance of Colorado, the four-story building will offer supportive housing to individuals transitioning from homelessness, with a focus on residents who have suffered from a brain injury. HOST is providing a $1,440,000 performance loan to help support construction costs, as well as $1 million toward supportive services spanning 15 years.

City Council also approved a three-year, $1,005,000 contract with the Colorado Village Collaborative to fund operations and programming for two temporary tiny home villages. The HOST funds will support the Beloved Community Village that was established in Globeville in 2019, and the Women’s Village at Clara Brown Commons that opened in the Cole neighborhood late last year. The temporary sheltering model helps to bridge the gap between the streets and stable housing. The HOST contract is projected to serve 75 households experiencing homelessness over the three-year period.

Sheltering operations and programming at The Delores Project, an emergency shelter for women and transgender individuals experiencing homelessness, was approved for a three-year period, utilizing $2,100,000 from Denver’s new Homelessness Resolution Fund. The contract represents the first spending commitment from the fund, which was established through a voter-approved .25% increase to Denver’s Sales and Use Tax.

News from the Department of Housing Stability

Additional HOST contracts approved by City Council

Below are other HOST contracts approved by City Council on March 8 to assist persons experiencing or transitioning out of homelessness:

  • Colorado Health Network – One-year contract, totaling $2,771,621, to support tenant-based rental assistance, short-term rent or mortgage utility assistance, supportive services, and permanent housing placement programs to low-income individuals living with HIV/AIDS.
  • St. Francis Center – Three-year contract, totaling $645,735, to support storage services for persons experiencing homelessness offered through 200 lockers accessible weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Bluff Mercy – Three-year contract, totaling $900,000, to fund supportive services and housing subsidy for households transitioning from homelessness at Bluff Lake Apartments.
  • Volunteers of America, sheltering – Three-year contract, totaling $1,205,487, to support 24/7 residential shelter for women age 55 and older at the new Sinton’s Sanctuary that opened last year.
  • Volunteers of America, rehousing – Three-year contract, totaling $3,075,000, to provide rehousing services, including rental assistance and supportive services, for approximately 160 households annually.
  • Burgwyn Residential Management Services – Three-year contract, totaling $600,000, to fund supportive housing services at the Fourth Quarter Apartments and Ruby Hill Residences, which together will serve 121 households at a time in supportive housing.
  • U.S. Motels – One-year contract, totaling $500,000, to provide short-term emergency shelter for families.
  • Mental Health Center of Denver – One-year contract, totaling $400,000, to fund support services, including supportive housing, benefits acquisition, intensive case management, medication evaluation, medication monitoring, referral and coordination with primary care, therapeutic groups, and substance abuse treatment, to individuals experiencing chronic homelessness.

HOST lands new Deputy Director

The Denver Department of Housing Stability (HOST) has selected Angie Nelson as the Deputy Director of Housing Stability and Homelessness Resolution. Nelson has worked in policy and programs to address homelessness with Denver Human Services, Denver’s Road Home and HOST for the past six years, including as interim deputy director for the past four months. Prior to working with the City, she developed and led transitional housing programs for Denver Rescue Mission and Warren Village.

Nelson is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and holds a master’s degree in social work and bachelor’s degree in pre-professional counseling. She has a demonstrated record of collaborative stakeholder engagement and innovative systems change, as well as strong leadership and program management skills in her roles as a direct care provider, as a program manager and a social worker.

Learn more about Deputy Director Nelson’s role with HOST.

Safe Outdoor Space updates

16th & Pearl SOS

Since opening the site at Denver Community Church on December 15, 2020, this model has celebrated the following successes:

  • 0% positive COVID testing rate
  • 5 residents have successfully moved into Tiny Homes
  • 2 residents have connected to housing vouchers
  • 2 residents have regained employment
  • 4 residents reconnected with VA
  • 8 residents currently receiving case management services
  • 14 residents have received dental health services
  • Good Neighbor Agreements completed with neighborhood groups surrounding the site

The 16th and Pearl SOS will host its monthly Good Neighbor meeting on Thursday, March 11, 2021, at 7 PM. The meeting will be facilitated by Frank Locantore and will include safety updates from DPD, site updates from CVC/DCC, and an opportunity for discussion.