Denver to open homeless shelter for 600 men, hopes to add one for women

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said Tuesday that the city is going to open a 600-space shelter for men at the National Western Complex — scaling back plans for a larger shelter after the governor declined to increase his deployment of National Guard troops.

Hancock said he hopes to finalize plans for a women’s shelter shortly.

In addition, the city has signed a contract for 151 individual rooms, he said — doubling the number the city has.

Gov. Jared Polis’ office has deployed 250 National Guard troops to staff existing city shelters but expressed reluctance Monday about ordering up more Monday, saying he would rather work with hotel and motel operators to house the homeless.

Many hotels have been resistant, however. Hancock wrote an open letter Monday to operators imploring them to help Denver during this time of need.

Already two contracts nearing completion were “blown up” because the operator was willing to rent the rooms but not provide services, John Parvensky, president and CEO of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, said during a Monday press conference.

“It’s one thing to have four walls and a door to be able to put people in,” Parvensky said. “But if there’s not somebody who’s providing maintenance, who’s providing the housekeeping, who’s providing security, who’s making sure the property is operating well, you can imagine that it’s really a recipe for disaster.”

Denver had previously secured 150 individual rooms — far short of the potential thousands needed — and 93 of them are already occupied with people requiring quarantine space as they recover from the virus or await test results. Internal city status reports indicate management of the spaces has been a challenge.

“Staff struggling with issues of loose or un-observed protocol for referral to ‘Respite Rooms’ and lack of enforcement of quarantine,” an April 3 report indicates.

Pricing is also a challenge as the coalition tries to secure rooms, said Cathy Alderman, a coalition vice president.

The organization was negotiating prices between $40 and $80 a night, but after public health officials issued a letter of intent for similar leasing agreements at $150 a night, negotiations with the coalition stopped in their tracks, Alderman said.

That letter has since been retracted, but the damage is done, Alderman said.

“People are going to have that number stuck in their head,” she said. “It’s more than we can afford.”

This story was updated to correct that National Guard troops will not be staffing the new shelter.

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