Mayor and DHS Open Temporary Shelter for the Homeless
Mayor John Hickenlooper, District 9 City Councilwoman Judy Montero, and Denver Human Services Manager Roxane White joined members of the Mayor’s Commission on Homelessness Monday to announce that the City and County of Denver will open the doors of the Denver Human Services Building, 1200 Federal, as a temporary, emergency, nighttime shelter for the homeless. The Denver Rescue Mission will run the shelter, which will open to homeless residents December 20 and operate this winter only.
The decision is the culmination of months of efforts to replace 120 shelter beds lost when the First Baptist Church closed its Shelter on the Hill earlier this year due to structural problems.
“I am extremely pleased that the City is able to help meet the desperate need for emergency shelter,” Hickenlooper said. “There is no doubt in my mind that this plan will help to save lives this winter. I am especially grateful to the residents of Sun Valley and West Denver for their willingness to stay at the table and work through this proposal with us, despite their initial concerns.”
Hickenlooper also lauded the leadership of Councilwoman Montero, praising her tireless efforts to work out a plan that addressed neighborhood safety concerns, and expressed appreciation to Council members Rosemary Rodriguez, Michael Hancock and Rick Garcia for their support as well. In addition, he thanked the Denver Rescue Mission and employees of Denver Human Services for spearheading the effort.
“It’s a special partnership that brings together city employees and a community service provider to quickly develop a plan to address such a critical situation,” Hickenlooper said. “I am extremely proud of our Denver Human Services employees; their commitment to helping others is inspiring.”
On Saturday, Hickenlooper, Montero, Hancock, and White knocked on doors in Sun Valley and other nearby West Denver neighborhoods to personally visit with residents about the urgent need for a shelter and the additional security measures that would be implemented in response to neighborhood concerns. The feedback from residents was overwhelmingly supportive.
“I am immensely relieved to be able to work out a temporary solution to Denver’s shelter shortage, and I’m proud that it is in District 9,” Montero said. “This is absolutely the right thing to do, and I am even more convinced of it after speaking with residents in Sun Valley and West Denver this weekend. I cannot thank these citizens enough for their patience, compassion and perseverance in working with us on their safety concerns. I believe that as a result of their input, we have a plan that helps us protect our homeless while also doing everything possible to ensure neighborhood safety.”
White, who also chairs the Mayor’s Commission on Homelessness, echoed these sentiments, adding: “I am extremely proud of our employees, our neighbors, Denver Police, the Denver Rescue Mission and our City leadership for mobilizing so quickly to create this desperately needed shelter space. I, too, especially appreciate the willingness of our neighbors in Sun Valley and West Denver to persevere with us until we found a way to address their safety concerns. This is an awesome community.”
The shelter will operate nightly from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. through mid-April, serving approximately 100 men nightly in the first floor hallway of Human Services’ Castro Center offices at 1200 Federal. The agency, in conjunction with Denver Rescue Mission, will bus the men from the Rescue Mission after dinner each night and then return them downtown the next morning so that they may get to their jobs, employment training and other activities.
Denver Rescue Mission, which has been serving the homeless in downtown Denver for 111 years, will fund the operation of the shelter while increased security, maintenance and transportation costs will be funded by federal grant money that was previously earmarked for the First Baptist Church shelter that closed. No local funds will be used.
Donated blankets, hats, gloves, towels and soap are encouraged and appreciated. Items can be dropped off at the Denver Human Services Building at 1200 Federal.
* * * In a related development Monday, Mayor Hickenlooper announced the appointment of former District 9 City Councilwoman Deborah Ortega as executive director of the Mayor’s Commission on Homelessness. In this capacity, Ortega will be responsible for coordinating the Commission’s efforts to develop a plan to end homelessness in Denver within 10 years, support community shelter efforts, and address concerns surrounding aggressive panhandling and the need for a safe environment for Denver businesses, visitors and residents.
Currently the president of Colorado Public Advisory Services, Ltd., Ortega served on Denver City Council for 16 years, representing the district in which the Denver Human Services building resides. During her tenure, she co-chaired the Affordable Housing Task Force and served as a catalyst for sustainable development and redevelopment activities within the Central Platte Valley and Lower Downtown. She also spearheaded efforts to include an affordable housing plan in the Stapleton Redevelopment Service Agreement.
Prior to her election to City Council, Ortega worked for many years as a staff assistant to former District 9 Councilman Sal Carpio, Jr. She is a former board member of the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative and currently serves as board president of the Del Norte Neighborhood Development Corporation, a local non-profit housing organization.
“Debbie has a tremendous knowledge of the City and an impressive background developing policy and partnerships related to affordable housing and community services,” Hickenlooper said. “We are fortunate to have someone with her experience involved in our efforts to end homelessness in Denver.”
Ortega’s salary will be paid with federal homelessness grant funds.
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