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DENVER -- Complicated problems often require creative solutions, and Denver's homeless population is no exception.
"We're seeing an increase in homelessness, across the board," said Cathy Alderman with the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless. "You don't have to go very far to see that this problem is exacerbating in Denver. It's time that we need to really do something about it quickly."
The coalition is answering the need for more housing with a clever solution. It plans to convert the Quality Inn & Suites at E. 36th Ave. and Quebec St. into 139 micro-affordable housing units in Denver's Park Hill neighborhood.
"It means that we will be able to move at least 139 people, and pretty immediately, once those renovations are complete," said Alderman.
She said outside of installing a new sprinkler system and updating the kitchens, the rooms are move-in ready.
"It's a really effective way to get housing online quickly," explained Alderman.
Alderman said building new affordable housing units can cost upwards of $35 million and take up to three years to construct.
"An innovative way to provide housing quickly, and I think it is something that we desperately need, which is why I think the state and city are stepping up and saying, we want to be partners in this," she said.
With funding from the state and city, the coalition plans to purchase the motel for around $10.4 million. Alderman said her group is also seeking further philanthropic funding and plans to put some of its own money up to complete the project.
"Rent is just skyrocketing and I personally think more affordable housing is a good thing," said resident Justine Berg, whose apartment backs up to the hotel and future affordable housing site.
Berg said she knows the struggle of finding affordable housing in Denver and is glad to see the hotel being converted.
"In fact, I moved in here with roommates because I could not afford my last apartment," she said. "I feel like it's a stereotype that everyone who has to live-in low-cost housing is going to be a criminal or a drug addict or this or that, I think a lot of everyday people like me -- need affordable housing."
Alderman said the coalition hopes to close on the property in October and have it ready for people to move into by the end of the year.
"We'll see some people that will come in and live with us, kind of, on a permanent basis and a long-term basis and some people may just use it as a transitional option," she said.
"Colorado's Coalition for the Homeless has a solid track record of creating much needed homes for our most vulnerable populations," Denver's Chief Housing Officer Britta Fisher said in a statement. "We're thrilled to see their work continuing in northeast Denver. This is clearly an innovative use of existing property that will deliver supportive housing with the quickest turnaround."