When COVID-19 hit Denver earlier this year, those at the highest risk of contracting the virus were those experiencing homelessness. Day shelters couldn’t provide social distancing to an already vulnerable population, and expecting guests to shuffle their belongings from place to place posed even more problems than usual.
The City and County of Denver partnered with local social service agencies as a stay at home order went into effect to create the city’s first 24/7 shelters. Men experiencing homelessness found shelter at the National Western Stock Show Complex, while women and transgender individuals were housed next door, at the Denver Coliseum. It was the first time the providers worked under the same roof.
Inspired by necessity, the 24/7 shelter model surprised both guests and staff. Not only did COVID cases decrease to zero over the months, but guests received an elevated level of care made possible by the 24/7 model.
The I Am Denver team spent a few days inside the Women’s Auxiliary Shelter, which operated from April 20-Aug. 4, 2020, to hear what guests and service providers had to say about the experience. Give a listen here.
Photos and video by Emily Maxwell