DENVER – The city hopes that a $2 million request for federal funds from Denver Congresswoman Diana DeGette will be approved so it can buy a 95-room hotel to use as a shelter for people experiencing homelessness.
The request was made as part of the newly-reinstated earmarking process, which Congress prohibited in 2011 but reinstated in February. DeGette on Friday made requests to the House Appropriations Committee for 10 so-called Community Project Funding projects, including the $2 million for the acquisition of the Travelodge on E. 38th Avenue.
The purchase of the 95-room hotel – 94 of whose rooms will go to people needing shelter – will cost $7.8 million overall, and Denver officials said at a news conference Thursday morning they are hopeful the DeGette requests comes through.
Britta Fisher, Denver’s Chief Housing Officer, said if the money is approved, the city believes it can close on the property and renovate it for use by the end of 2021.
The city said the motel would be used as a shelter for around the first 2 years, which could house more than 150 people, and then be converted into supportive housing. Fisher and Mayor Michael Hancock said Thursday that the supportive housing would have resources on site for behavioral and mental health support and to try to get people into jobs and permanent housing.
DeGette said at the news conference that all of her project funding requests were made for housing needs for Denver residents. The requests also include $10 million for Urban Peak’s shelter reconstruction project at 1603 S. Acoma Street and $2 million for the Stout Street project underway with the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.
“Projects like this will provide our residents a safety net, giving those who need it a safe place to sleep and helping them get back on their feet as soon as possible,” DeGette said.
More than 4,000 people living in Denver at the start of last year were experiencing homelessness, according to the Metro Denver Homelessness Initiative’s 2020 survey. Fisher said at another news conference later Thursday morning that the city shelter network was providing shelter to more than 2,200 people every night – a 60% increase from before the pandemic.
She said that if the hotel purchase can go through, along with the hotel rooms provided during the past year, a new 46-bed crisis stabilization center and other large shelters coming online later this year, the city was on its way to providing more resources for people experiencing homelessness – the number of which has increased during the pandemic, officials estimate.
“I think it’s a win-win-win,” said DeGette. “This is what’s going to help solve these problems in the long run.”
The officials said they believe this is the first hotel the city will have purchased that will be used as a shelter. The site is walking distance from an RTD bus station and from the Peoria light rail station and has parking for people with cars, which Fisher said would be helpful for people sheltering there.
She said it is possible that people with partners might be able to share a room at the location if the purchase goes through, and that people with pets might also be able to stay there – two barriers often associated with people not using the city’s shelter system.
The city does not have a partner that will operate the motel site but will go through a procurement process to find partners – of which there are several the city has already been working closely with for years.
“This is the kind of partnership we need,” Hancock said, echoing statements from DeGette and Fisher that the “multi-governmental entity” could be a “transformational” path forward for the future of Denver.