Denver Consolidates Newcomer Shelter Operations

Published on February 28, 2024

Mayor Mike Johnston today announced the consolidation of newcomer shelter operations from seven hotels to three, as well as a revised 2024 budget estimate. Reduced newcomer numbers, along with ongoing case management and hotel consolidations are projected to reduce the estimated $180 million 2024 budget need to as low as $120 million.

Mayor Mike Johnston speaks at a podium. On his left is a sign language interpreter. On his right are City Councilors Amanda Sandoval, Jamie Torres, head of Denver's newcomer program Sarah Plastino and Denver Human Services Head Anne-Marie Braga.

“Even without federal support on this issue, our belief is that our problems are solvable, and we are the ones to solve them,” said Mayor Mike Johnston. “As a result of closing four shelters for newcomers, the city could save up to $60 million in the 2024 budget.”

Under the new consolidation plan, four of the seven hotel shelters will close by early April as part of the city’s strategy to move newcomers from shelter to stability. Individuals staying at the four shelters will be relocated to other facilities or stable housing.

As the number of new arrivals and the overall shelter population have declined over the last month, the city, nonprofits and community members have developed a successful four-part strategy:

  • Resumption of length-of-stay limits for all shelter guests (14 days for individuals and 42 days for families with children).
  • Intentional and supportive case management, resource navigation and housing assistance, with an emphasis on preventing people from ending up on the streets.
  • Hosting work authorization clinics, which over the past two weeks have supported 600 newcomers, with additional clinics scheduled in the days ahead to assist another 700 people.
  • Continuing to offer travel options to other locations.

“The work clinics are one of the many efforts the city is doing to ensure the community has a direct connection to support,” said Council President Jamie Torres. “I cannot discount the dozens of community volunteers and partners who have supported newcomers throughout this process. We thank them for their expertise, time and passion for our community.”

As of today, 2,300 people are in city-run shelters and an average of 30 are arriving daily. These numbers are down from a high of nearly 5,000 people in shelters and more than 200 arrivals per day in December and January.

“It has been a long road to get to where we are today and I feel very optimistic about where we are headed,” said Yoli Casas, Executive Director of Vive Wellness, one of the community-based organizations working alongside the city to assist newcomers. “Nonprofits have helped fill the gaps and we as a community, a city and state, have come together to find solutions to a crisis while we make sure families have a plan and resources.”

Consolidating facilities will make it easier for nonprofits and staff to manage shelter operations and work with individuals and families. Additionally, the city will continue to partner with the Archdiocese of Denver to offer bridge housing to a limited number of families.

“I know many Denverites have been worried about people living on the streets,” said Council President Pro Tem Amanda Sandoval. “Because of our collaborative efforts and successful case management with community partners, the faith community, residents and teachers, we do not see people living on the streets.”

Nonprofits and city staff will work with guests to address any possible disruptions for those transitioning out of the closed shelters. 

Mayor Johnston will continue to evaluate budget needs and city service levels in the coming weeks.

To date, Denver has supported almost 40,000 migrants from the southern border at a cost of nearly $58 million. The city extends its gratitude to the nonprofits, volunteers and members of the community offering their support to guests through housing, food, legal assistance and more.

Watch today’s press conference here.