February 4, 2023

Dawson County Journal

Dawson County, Nebraska

Homeless advocates raise concerns as pandemic hotel housing nears end

DENVER (KDVR) — A program meant to protect the most vulnerable among the unhoused population is set to end soon. People using the program said the city is not doing enough to make sure the outcome is safe for everyone involved.

The city said they are working to house people who were taking part in some temporary housing, but the people living there are not happy with the solution they have been offered.

During the height of the pandemic, Denver’s Department of Housing and Stability (HOST) used hotels as protective action rooms to house people who are at high risk of getting sick from COVID.

Representatives from HOST said that was always a temporary solution. They gave people living there one month’s notice that they have to be out by Sept. 16. The department said they are sheltering 153 people at the Quality Inn on Zuni Street and about 300 people total. The space was leased directly by the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.

HOST is offering the people staying at the Quality Inn some other shelter options, but the people who have been living at the hotel said those shelters are not safe for them.

“About three months from now, I genuinely have no doubt that I will probably hear that one or maybe two of my friends from this hotel have died. I’ve accepted it, but that’s not right. Again, we are human beings,” said Ana Miller, a resident of Quality Inn and a member of Housekeys Action Network Denver (HANDS). “We are the people who are the most vulnerable, out of the most vulnerable population in the city. We’re even more vulnerable than the houseless who aren’t sick. So this is just- no. Again, I have no faith in the city anymore. I feel like everything we say literally falls on deaf ears because we don’t have money,”

As federal funds for this type of sheltering are anticipated to end, HOST said they have worked with their partners to begin transitioning guests to other facilities. The city will relocate some of the guests to Aloft Hotel downtown, but that location is set to end as a protective shelter on Dec. 31.

Those residents testified before city council, but they said their hope is dwindling in regards to the city changing its plans.

HANDS said they surveyed 39 people living at the Quality Inn and 87% of them have no housing plans lined up once the protective action housing ends.

HOST said in a statement:

“Shelter staff are actively helping transition guests to housing, future shelter arrangements (including congregate and non-congregate shelter), plus medical and behavioral healthcare supports. We are confident that we have other options available for everyone at Quality Inn to transfer to, should they so choose. “

There is an ordinance before the city council that is a proposed contract extension with Colorado Coalition for the Homeless. It would increase the contract award amount and extend the duration until Dec. 31, 2022.

This contract supports multiple locations, including the Quality Inn on Zuni Street. But HOST reps said regardless of the outcome of this proposed contract extension, the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless is planning to end protective action sheltering at the Zuni site in mid-September.

Source: Rocky Mountain News