DENVER — Last week, Denver7 reported on the City of Denver's plan to purchase a 194-unit hotel near I-70 and Quebec and convert it into a homeless shelter.
The $26 million purchase was expected to close in mid-August and the city's lease was expected to start Sept. 1.
A Denver7.com reader named Michael reached out to The Follow Up inbox with some questions about the city's plan: What are the costs associated with operating a shelter that large? What are the criteria for staying at the shelter? And will there be rules around substance abuse?
Another viewer, Liz, asked for clarification between a homeless shelter and the "supportive housing" billed in the city's original press release.
We took those questions straight to Denver's Department of Housing Stability (HOST), which will operate the shelter, to get answers. Here's what we learned.
FIRST, IS THIS REALLY A HOMELESS SHELTER? Yes, the city plans to use the facility as a homeless shelter – a "non-congregate shelter" in city lingo, meaning each resident has an individual or roommate space rather than a large community space – for as long as a few years.
"Eligibility will be literal homelessness," a HOST spokesperson told Denver7 in an email.
After its period as a homeless shelter, the city plans to convert the facility to "supportive housing," a term for low-income housing that provides residents with voluntary resources like healthcare and employment services.
Keep in mind, Denver's new mayor has pledged to end homelessness during his first four years in office. The goal of the eventual "supportive housing" is to help tenants create long-term housing stability.
Once converted to supportive housing, at least 40% of the complex will be reserved for tenants earning 30% of the Area Median Income, according to the city's press release. Other units will aim to help people transition away from homelessness.
BEYOND THE $26 MILLION PRICE TAG FOR THE HOTEL, THERE ARE, OF COURSE, OPERATING COSTS. We asked HOST for its estimates.
The cost to operate the hotel as a homeless shelter will be between $3 million and $4 million per year, a HOST spokesperson told Denver7. Eventually, it'll cost about $800,000 to operate it as a supportive housing facility.
Those operating costs will come from the city's General Fund, Denver's largest operating fund sourced largely from sales and use tax dollars. HOST already has a contract for non-congregate shelters paid for with the General Fund and told Denver7 an expansion of that contract – in the form of the Homelessness Resolution Fund – just needs city council approval.
To convert the hotel to supportive housing, the city will make renovations, including building out kitchenettes for the tenants. The logistics and costs for those changes are still under negotiation and will be determined in partnership with the Denver Housing Authority, HOST said.
WE ALSO ASKED HOST ABOUT DRUG AND ALCOHOL USE AT THE SHELTER. Here's what they told us:
HOST funds low-barrier shelter, meaning that drug and alcohol use are not prohibitive factors in people experiencing homelessness gaining access to shelter. We ask that our service provider establish shelter policies and procedures that account for guest needs, including trauma informed care, harm reduction, and person-centered case management. When the site converts to supportive housing, partners continue to deploy housing first strategies that reduce harm, connect people to services, and provide other supports to keep stably housed.