Denver planning to book hotel rooms for homeless through June

Tents and makeshift shelters sit along 18th Street near the Hampton Inn on Sherman Street, behind the tent in the foreground, which the city leased to house homeless people who were affected by COVID-19. (Eric Heinz photo)

A city effort to place hundreds of homeless individuals in hotel and motel rooms that began in the early days of the pandemic is now slated to run through next summer.

The city has leased about 800 rooms for the last 17 months. The contract to operate the hotels and motels with the nonprofit Colorado Coalition for the Homeless is expected to be extended by about $11 million tonight by the City Council, bringing the total contract cost to $38 million since April 2020.

The contract would now end June 30.

The city could continue to pay to lease the rooms after that, but it depends on how much federal COVID-19 relief funding is available.

“We have had positive results from the pandemic response, and I think that we see non-congregate shelters as a portion of our shelter system going forward,” said Britta Fisher, the city’s chief housing officer. “As to what extent, that remains to be seen.”

Eight hotels and motels the city has leased, which BusinessDen previously identified through a public records request, are the Comfort Inn, 401 E. 58th Ave.; Hampton Inn, 1845 Sherman St.; Western Motor Inn, 4757 Vasquez Blvd.; Comfort Inn, 4685 Quebec St.; La Quinta Inn, 3500 Park Ave.; Quality Inn, 2601 Zuni St.; Aloft Hotel, 800 15th St.; and Rodeway Inn and Suites, 4765 Federal Blvd.

These seven hotels are contracted for the city through the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless to house homeless people at risk or positive for COVID-19. The hotels, clockwise from top left are: Comfort Inn, 401 E. 58th Ave.; Hampton Inn, 1845 Sherman St.; Western Motor Inn, 4757 Vasquez Blvd.; Comfort Inn, 4685 Quebec St.; La Quinta Inn, 3500 Park Ave.; Quality Inn, 2601 Zuni St.; and Aloft Hotel, 800 15th St. (BusinessDen file)

Homeless individuals eligible to stay in the hotels and motels are those who have tested positive for the virus, and those who have factors or conditions that make them considered high-risk. That includes being over 65 years old, being pregnant or having various conditions ranging from lung disease to severe obesity.

Cathy Alderman, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, said the coalition has helped temporarily house more than 3,000 homeless people since the program began, and they can stay for as long as their recovery is needed.

COVID-19 vaccines have been available widely in Colorado since the spring, and Alderman said the coalition has provided vaccines at its other shelters as well as at the hotels and motels.

The coalition has vaccinated more than 3,500 individuals, she said, but that number includes people who are not homeless and received their shots at clinics hosted by the coalition and Denver Public Health.

Alderman said it is difficult to tell if people have been coming out of state to receive the treatment from programs such as the coalition’s, but she said they “definitely” have been coming from other parts of Colorado, where shelters were closed due to the virus.

More housing endeavors

Denver is in the process of trying to acquire and improve homeless facilities, which would include hotels and motels, and a $38 million bond measure for such projects will be put to the voters in November.

The city is already looking at purchasing a hotel that would have been a Travelodge at 12033 E. 38th Ave. for $7.85 million, which was announced in May.

And the city’s Real Estate Division in August sent out requests for hotel and motel owners to contact officials if they are interested in selling their property. Final submissions by potential sellers were due Aug. 31, but city officials told BusinessDen the requests are not public until negotiations are finalized with the owners.

The city at the beginning of the month announced a rehousing initiative to place 200 homeless people into residences within 100 days. The city announced in September it received emergency housing vouchers from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funding from the American Rescue Plan Act to the Denver Housing Authority.

Updates regarding that program will be announced later in the initiative, Fisher said.

Separate from the contract, the coalition is planning to open a 75-bed facility in 2022 for “recuperative care” for homeless people that will be located behind the Stout Street Health Center, Alderman said. The facility will be for people who need oxygen, wound care, COVID-19 recovery and other care.

“We probably will have an ongoing need for people who become ill with COVID or something, and I think we are having conversations of what (the need for more housing) looks like,” Alderman said.

During his state of the city, Mayor Michael Hancock said the city is looking to acquire 200 to 300 more motel and hotel rooms for homeless housing.

Tents and makeshift shelters sit along 18th Street near the Hampton…

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