Denver Mayor Michael Hancock unveils new affordable housing approach

Focus on jobs, health and housing

DENVER -- We all know living in Denver is expensive and as prices keep climbing those who can't afford rent are increasingly ending up on the streets.

"Every month more families and individuals are being pushed to the tipping point as more of their pay checks go to their rent," Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said during an event on Friday.

Hancock and his administration unveiled a new strategy to better deal with the growing homeless problem and affordable housing crisis.

"[We're] moving beyond the housing first approach and saying we've got to broaden our reach," Hancock said.

Instead, the focus is also on jobs, health and affordable housing.

"It's not about more money, it's about a new approach," Hancock said.

"We can't move away from a housing first strategy," explained John Parvenski, president and CEO of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.

Parvenski said the $150 million the city has committed to addressing affordable housing over the next ten years is a good start, but more money and resources are needed and not a shift in housing strategy.

"You can't address health, you can't address economic opportunity; it all starts with housing," Parvenski said.

Under the new push, the city has identified 30 action items it can accomplish by year's end, including expanding its Denver Day Works Program that helps put homeless people to work, adding more storage options -- including a pilot locker program on the sidewalks outside the shelters on Lawrence Street and quadrupling the number of mental health experts who go along with emergency service providers from six to 24.

"I think what you're going to see the city do is take resources that we're already allocating and do much more with it," Hancock said.

The mayor also said the city has a better understanding of the people struggling in the city and pointed to a new survey from the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative.

It found three in four people who are homeless in Denver are working and more seniors and young adults are living on the streets. 

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