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Denver Adds Hotel Rooms for People Experiencing Homelessness, Welcomes Assistance from Colorado National Guard

DENVER – With assistance from the State and shelter/service providers, Denver is expanding its efforts in providing greater physical distancing for people experiencing homelessness.  The city finalized an agreement with another hotel, located downtown, for an additional 151 rooms for people experiencing homelessness. The hotel contract will be sent to Denver City Council for approval.  

Denver now has a total of 270 individual rooms available for respite care for individuals who are medically required to be isolated, as well as for protective action for individuals who are not currently symptomatic or ill with symptoms. Denver continues to work with the State and service providers to add up to 3,000 total hotel/motel rooms.  

Today the city also welcomed assistance from the Colorado National Guard, which is deploying approximately 250 unarmed personnel to help with current sheltering efforts. Personnel will be deployed to staff at existing overnight and day shelters, supplemental shelter, and activated respite rooms at hotel/motel sites. 

At the request of Denver’s largest homeless shelter providers, the City is opening auxiliary shelters to provide housing and services for individuals experiencing homelessness for the duration of the COVID-19 state of emergency. 24/7 shelter will open beginning Thursday, April 9, 2020 at the National Western Complex Hall of Education. Plans are also underway to potentially open 24/7 shelter at the Denver Coliseum in the coming days. The move allows for adequate physical distancing to reduce harm among people experiencing homelessness. 

“The COVID-19 local response has underscored our network of shelter and service providers who are making a tremendous difference in serving people experiencing homelessness with dignity and compassion,” said Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock. “Greater physical distancing is essential for everyone, including our residents experiencing homelessness. We’re grateful to work with shelter and service providers, the National Western Complex and the State of Colorado to help make this happen.” 

The temporary sheltering will provide the kind of spacing and physical distancing necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19, including at least 50 square feet of space for individual guests. The auxiliary sites will also provide much needed relief to our existing shelters, which have been challenged with providing physical distancing for guests. 

Sheltering for around 600 men will be established at the National Western Complex Hall of Education. The site has provided temporary shelter historically, including accommodations for the Colorado National Guard during the 2008 Democratic National Convention, as well as housing for World Youth Day in 1993. The Denver Coliseum will potentially provide shelter for up to 300 women and transgender individuals presenting as women.  

The auxiliary shelter for men will absorb guest capacity from the Denver Rescue Mission’s two current overnight shelters, which will temporary close beginning Thursday, April 9. Additionally, capacity will also be absorbed from the Crossroads Shelter for men, which will remain open, with a target of serving a lower capacity of up to 300 guests with greater capacity.  

“While the whole world has been able to socially distance, we have not been able to do that in our shelters,” said Brad Meuli, CEO of the Denver Rescue Mission. “To be able to do this for the men is really incredible for us. This is a great example of a partnership between the city and the nonprofit community.” 

The auxiliary shelter sites will provide coordinated public health response among people experiencing homelessness, including screening, triage and access to respite facilities for recovery. Guests who are presenting with cold and flu-like symptoms will be transferred to a separate supplemental shelter location. Guests who need to self-quarantine because they are highly vulnerable, are awaiting test results for COVID-19, or who have tested positive for the virus will be transferred to separate activated respite care. 

“The City of Denver and the Mayor's Office reached out to us for help in providing a safe space for our city's homeless population,” said Paul Andrews, President and CEO of the National Western Stock Show and Complex. “As a resident in this community for over 114 years and partner with the City of Denver, there was no question we want to do our part to help during this state of emergency.  Our facilities can help those in our communities without a home, find a safe place to shelter with safe distancing.”  

Auxiliary shelter guests will be provided with three meals a day, showers, medical screening, and mental and behavioral health care. Arrangements are also being made for storage of personal belongings, wireless internet and laundry services. The sites will be accessible via transportation provided from other shelter and service provider locations, as well as walk-up access.  

The Homeless Leadership Council (HLC), composed of Denver’s largest shelter and services providers, approached the City for expanded shelter options and staffing assistance. HLC members include Catholic Charities of Denver, Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, The Delores Project, Denver Rescue Mission, The Gathering Place, St. Francis Center, The Salvation Army, Urban Peak, and Volunteers of America.