DENVER — Denver city leaders made significant investments Monday into housing and shelter programs to support Denver's homeless population during the coronavirus outbreak. Many of the programs could continue well after the pandemic ends.
"The contracts city council is approving tonight are really an illustration of the many levels that we've been addressing homelessness at for many years, but with bigger intensity," At-Large Councilmember Robin Kniech said. "We talk about building back better, and I will tell you that we have improved our response to homelessness because this pandemic has forced us to do it."
The city extended three contracts on Monday with The Salvation Army and Colorado Coalition for the Homeless. The contract extensions total more than $24 Million and focus mainly on finding stable, transitional housing for individuals experiencing homelessness in Denver.
Advocates of the programs say they have proved useful in giving Denverites quality shelter and the ability to find options to transition out of homelessness.
"We've been placing people in motels and hotels so that they have a place to be protected from the virus but also to work on getting their paperwork in order, identifying job opportunities," said Cathy Alderman, spokesperson for Colorado Coalition for the Homeless. "Those hotels and motels have given us the opportunity to really help people stabilize so that we can then prepare them for what a long term housing option might look like."
The way forward, many in city leadership believe, is to fund transitional and permanent housing based on individual needs. Kniech says that with tracking and properly applied funds, the more than 4,000 individuals living on the streets in Denver can find housing.
"We are tracking every individual we serve — we have a regional data system," she said. "We can use all that data to help us inform improving these solutions."