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Aurora City Council votes to buy Crowne Plaza hotel for future homelessness 'navigation center'

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Posted at 8:59 PM, Jan 22, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-22 22:59:27-05

AURORA, Colo. — The Aurora City Council voted Monday to approve the purchase of the Crowne Plaza Hotel off Interstate 70 and Chambers Road to serve as a new center to address homelessness.

Dubbed the Aurora Regional Navigation Campus, the center will feature a “work first” model that Mayor Mike Coffman said will expect residents to work and participate in drug-free programs.

By a vote of 7-3, the city council approved the $26.5 million purchase of the hotel, with funding coming from city, county, state, and federal sources. Coffman called the work-first model a “tough love approach” that “fits the culture of the city.”

The work-first model contrasts with the housing-first model of homelessness outreach, which allows people into shelters without any work or sobriety requirements and encourages residents to enter programs after they have found stability. This campus will instead offer different tiers of housing, which residents will earn their way into through work and sobriety programs.

During the meeting, Councilmember Francoise Bergan argued the approach shows more compassion for those experiencing homelessness.

“If we are truly compassionate, we want to help those who are experiencing homelessness to be productive, to be able to overcome substance abuse disorder, to get mental health help,” Bergan said.

A work-first approach stands in contrast to the housing-first approach that has been adopted in many major cities across the nation, including Denver.

The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless also advocates for a housing-first model. Cathy Alderman, its chief communications and public policy officer, said she applauds the decision to invest more money in safe indoor spaces but doesn’t believe people should be turned away from it. She also said work-first models can harm those who are unable to work.

“We should encourage people to engage in employment opportunities, and we should provide meaningful opportunities for them,” Alderman said. “But requiring them to work before they are eligible for housing is just creating barriers and setting up a little bit of an elitist system, frankly. And so I think that that could, in the long term, be harmful.”

More than $40 million total could be allocated for the Regional Navigation Campus, which could open as early as 2025, according to its website.

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