Apr 19, 2019
DENVER – At this morning’s 5th annual Denver Housing Forum, Mayor Michael B. Hancock rolled out his proposal to create a new Department of Housing and Homelessness. The new proposed department is the next step in the Hancock Administration’s commitment to addressing the continued need for more affordable housing and better services for those experiencing homelessness in our city.
“The challenges we face in these areas are not unique to our city, and they are not unique to times of economic hardship or historic prosperity,” Mayor Hancock said. “Every Denver resident deserves the opportunity to have a home in our great city, and we believe this should be a core city service, just like police, fire, zoning, planning, and street paving. Housing and homelessness services need the structure within city government to bring all of our resources to bear to tackle these complex issues with compassion, dignity and care for all residents.”
Denver has made great progress over the past several years in strengthening the city’s approach to addressing our residents’ needs around affordability and homelessness, with improvements including Denver’s greatly expanded local resources, as well as the fortification of housing resource deployment under the leadership of the Chief Housing Officer. The process for creating a formal housing and homelessness department began in 2017 with the Office of Housing and Opportunities for People Everywhere (HOPE), a key step in identifying the elements for addressing the pipeline of housing need and affordability – linking everything from homelessness, transitional housing, affordable housing, and workforce development.
The new proposed Department of Housing and Homelessness will bring together the work currently being done by Denver Economic Development & Opportunity’s Housing Division and Denver’s Road Home, the city’s lead program to support people experiencing homelessness. By bringing these two agencies together under one roof, the proposed department will connect the full housing spectrum – from housing for those experiencing homelessness to affordable homeownership and everything in between – while aligning and leveraging the city’s resources in these areas.
“The timing is right, as we have the leadership and staffing structure in place now to establish a more targeted approach through a stand-alone department. This transition allows us to sharpen our focus on core economic development strategies that create opportunity for all Denver’s residents, businesses and neighborhoods,” said Eric Hiraga, Executive Director of Denver Economic Development & Opportunity.
“I am humbled by Mayor Hancock’s confidence, and eager to pull together our full spectrum of resources from people experiencing homelessness to affordable homeownership in one department,” said Chief Housing Officer Britta Fisher. “I am proud to work for this Mayor who has a heart, passion and vision for our residents who need a stable and affordable place to call home.”
Also at this morning’s housing forum, Mayor Hancock announced a $15.7 million initiative that will be leveraged by the city in partnership with our business, nonprofit and philanthropic communities over the next three years to bolster two critical homelessness services – bridge housing vouchers and additional day shelter activation.
“These are real solutions that can help people right now, and I want to thank the Denver Homeless Leadership Council, some of our strongest housing and shelter providers, for their advocacy and partnership in getting this initiative going,” Mayor Hancock said.
As part of the new initiative, $5 million will go to support 400 Bridge Housing Vouchers over the next two years to help our hardest to shelter residents exit the streets. $10.7 million will be focused on expanding options for additional day shelter activation in partnership with our large and small providers to bring people indoors during the daytime and help them exit the streets through increased case management and supportive services. The city is committing $11.2 million to this effort, and will be working with other partners to secure the remaining $4.5 million – with the Anschutz Foundation contributing the first partner commitment of $1 million.
With the formation of a new Department of Housing and Homelessness, and as recommended by the Auditor’s review, the city will undertake development of a new comprehensive strategic plan to address homelessness, which will explore new innovations and build on Denver’s current and past successes. The plan will implement measurements to track the city’s forward progress and show the human impacts of Denver’s strategy and investments into the prevention of and solutions to homelessness.