DENVER — With only days left to go in his first calendar year in office, Denver Mayor Mike Johnston said he feels “great” about the prospect of surpassing his goal of sheltering 1,000 unhoused people by Dec. 31.
The City of Denver has brought 892 people indoors as of this article's publication.
“We have plans to move more than about 200 people over the next three days still, [and] units that are still opening coming online,” Johnston told Denver7’s Rob Harris. “We’re talking to people around the city who are really excited about this transformational chance to get back up on their feet and indoors and into transitional housing. And so we feel great about the progress, but mostly feel good about what it means for Denverites… If you drive through downtown Denver tonight or over the next few days, it’s going to feel like a totally different place than it did six months ago. There will be no major encampments left in downtown Denver for the first time in as long as I can remember.”
The city did change the way it tracks the success of the program earlier this month after internal reporting discrepancies were discovered. Initially, media organizations were told an unhoused person was counted as sheltered if they remained for at least 14 days. We came to learn, however, that individuals were being counted right away, regardless of their length of stay. Even still, Johnston said he is “100 percent confident” that the numbers currently being reported are accurate.
Of the 892 people reported to have been brought into shelters as of Thursday, 870 are still indoors, constituting a success rate of nearly 98 percent.
Johnston’s administration has set a goal of getting another 1,000 people off the streets in 2024. Yet at the same time, Denver faces overlapping crises of thousands of arriving migrants and local homelessness growing for several years. We asked Johnston if he is concerned that our homelessness problems are growing faster than our solutions. He told us he is not.
“I think this is why we’ve proposed a comprehensive solution here — which is, yes, we’re focused on identifying those people that are at the greatest risk and getting them right away off of the streets, out of unsheltered encampments, and into housing. That’s step one,” Johnston said. “But the next step is going to get most people moved from transitional housing — these hotels or micro-communities — into permanently affordable units. That’s why we have a big focus next year on building 3,000 permanently affordable rental units. And that’s not just for people that are formerly unhoused. That’s for nurses and teachers and firefighters and people working two jobs that are struggling to make it in this city.”
Watch Rob’s full conversation with Johnston below.