DENVER – One of the state’s biggest issues is finding housing for the chronically homeless. Currently, there’s an estimated 5,000 homeless people living on metro area streets.
Although Colorado’s homeless population rose four percent in 2017, Denver’s overall homeless numbers fell more than three percent.
A new complex in the Capitol Hill neighborhood held a grand opening Sunday, and is aimed at lowering those numbers even more.
It’s called the Saint Francis Apartments at Cathedral Square near 14th and Colfax Avenues.
“This is home. My home,” Rosalinda Sanchez told Denver7.
Before she moved into her apartment in January, Sanchez had been homeless for five years.
In that time she lived on the streets, and lived with countless concerns.
“The only thing you had to worry about is how are you going to feed yourself and where are you going to sleep,” she said.
Fortunately for Sanchez and about 50 other homeless people, Saint John’s Cathedral and the Saint Francis Center for the homeless wanted to provide permanent housing.
“This is giving people new life, it's giving people the opportunity to be independent and self-sufficient,” Tom Luehrs said.
Luehrs is the Executive Director at Saint Francis Center. He emphasized the complex is also getting people off metro streets. Luehrs said this is something that, in one way or another, everybody wants to have done.
“It's not only the humane and right thing to do, but it really makes fiscal sense to do this,” he added.
“To have somebody in a building like Saint Francis Apartments at Cathedral Square costs about $12,000 a year,” according to Luehrs. “If somebody is out on the street, we have researched this and it costs the city about $45,000 a year.”
The new complex isn’t transitional. Instead, it’s a permanent home for people like Sanchez. For the first time in a long time, she’s found stability.
“The first time in the winter I don't have to be out there,” she said. “I don't have to get up at 5 o'clock in the morning where they tell you, ‘Well, it's time to leave.’”
Sanchez is referring to the city’s homeless sweeps.
The complex is home. Forty-nine units at 500-square-feet each.
Luehrs explained neighbors pay 30 percent of any income they earn. He said rent is also supported by subsidies or project-based vouchers from the Denver Housing Authority and Colorado Division of Housing.
The complex was made possible by a public-private partnership program that used $9.5 million in tax credits for development.
That funding came from Boston Capital, through the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program via the Colorado Housing and Finance Agency.
The remaining $1,230,000 in funding came from a Housing Development Grant through the Colorado Division of Housing, and from Denver’s Office of Economic Development.
The Denver Housing Authority and Colorado Division of housing is also supporting the project through project-based vouchers that apply to monthly rents.
Saint Francis Center raised an additional $1,000,000, through donors, to furnish the building and to provide on-going case management for the residents.