Denver buying a hotel to house some of its homeless population

Denver will buy a Travelodge hotel to house some of the city’s rising homeless population and will use $2 million in federal money to do it, Mayor Michael Hancock and U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette announced Thursday morning.

Overall, it’ll cost $7.8 million to make the hotel a shelter, which officials said will house more than 240 people. Denver Chief Housing Officer Britta Fisher said there’s a possibility that people with pets could live there, as well as the ability for partners to share a room. The hotel may be ready for people to move in by the end of the year, Fisher said, though the city isn’t sure who will run the shelter from day to day.

The plan to buy the hotel in northeast Denver puts the city alongside Austin, which announced a plan in March to convert a small hotel to house the homeless, and California also has a large program to help local governments buy hotels, motels and apartment buildings for the same purpose.

DeGette said the money is part of her community project request to the House Appropriations Committee.

“Because of the urgent need for housing … I focused my community funding projects on funding for housing remedies,” the Denver Democrat said during the news conference outside of the hotel.

About 4,171 people experiencing homelessness live in Denver, according Metro Denver Homeless Initiative’s 2020 survey, and emergency shelter beds for about half of those people. The pandemic hampered the 2021 survey, but the city’s homeless population was on the rise before COVID and experts agree that the pandemic and coinciding economic downtown forced even more people out of their homes.

The move doubles down on Denver’s strategy during the pandemic, which offered more than 800 rooms spread across six hotels for the homeless. City officials have committed nearly $17 million to that program, which will continue through the end of June.

The area where the new shelter will be located is south of Interstate 70 and west of Interstate 225, with some gas stations, convenience stores and restaurants; a few hotels and dispensaries, warehouses and office buildings. There is an RTD bus stop nearby, and it’s in walking distance of RTD’s Peoria Station.

“This is the kind of partnership we need in the city of Denver,” Hancock said Thursday morning, adding that Denver can’t do it alone, and that the hotel represents the possibility of hope and transformation for the people who will be able to call it home.

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