Dangerously cold weather prompts Denver to hand out hotel vouchers to the homeless

Move called an "emergency measure"

DENVER -- Outreach workers worry getting the homeless off the streets is a matter of life or death as temperatures continue to drop. The low in Denver is expected to reach six below zero Thursday evening.

People living in a tent city in Denver's River North Neighborhood refused services when outreach workers contacted them during a snowstorm Wednesday night. The city took lifesaving measures the next day, handing out hotel vouchers in hopes of bringing people inside.

"I mean, it’s certainly not something that we can sustain in the long-term but obviously we knew that if a move wasn’t made we stood a risk of losing somebody out here and we didn’t want that to happen," said Chris Conner, a program administrator with Denver's Road Home.

Conner told Denver7 some of the homeless he came in contact with had signs of hypothermia and frostbite.

Denver's Department of Human Services handed out hotel vouchers to 21 people. Four remained at the encampment and continued to refuse services.

When asked why she didn't go to a shelter on Wednesday, one woman said she didn't want to be separated from her husband. The couple ended up taking the vouchers and seemed to be grateful for the opportunity to escape the cold for a night.

"What we were hearing is a lot of resistance to accessing the overnight shelters so we needed a different way to make sure people were warm and safe," Conner said.

This is the first time outreach workers have handed out hotel vouchers at a homeless camp. A Salvation Army bus took people to a nearby Super 8 Motel. Once on board, they were handed blankets, hand warmers and snacks.

The vouchers will be valid through Monday until the weather warms up. City officials say the cost is $70 per night.

Other partners in this effort included the Salvation Army, Denver Human Services and Denver Police.

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