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Community advocates share mixed feelings toward Denver mayor's plan for nearly a dozen sites to house homeless

The sites include publicly-owned city land and property owned by CDOT, Denver’s Housing Authority and Denver Health, the mayor said
Sanctioned Homeless Encampments
Posted at 10:24 PM, Aug 24, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-25 01:54:29-04

DENVER — Community advocates on Thursday shared mixed feelings about Denver Mayor Mike Johnston's plan for nearly a dozen potential sites across the metro area to house 1,000 homeless by the end of the year.

"I appreciate the mayor's aggressiveness around doing something about unsheltered homelessness," said Lisa Calderón, who ran for mayor in 2023 and now serves as a representative for the Latino United Neighborhood Association (LUNA) .

But Calderón said we need to carefully consider where these sites are placed.

"I think there is a concern we are moving [people] from broken down tents to glorified boxes. There's this myth that just because you're poor you should all be huddled together. In actuality, when you integrate people into the neighborhoods is when we see better outcomes," said Calderón.

James Kay, the executive director for Denver Voice, agreed. He proposed social housing, where all new developments would have mixed-income levels. A model, he said, that has proven successful in cities like Paris and Seattle, where homelessness has become a major issue.

Advocates share mixed feelings after release of Johnton's micro-communities list

"The idea of us sectioning them off and putting them in certain communities... in the long scheme of things, that doesn't do a lot for the stigmas these people face," said Kay.

Calderón told Denver7 the focus should be on permanent housing, rather than focusing on the construction of pallet homes, which will take some time to build. She said the city should take a harder look at its current inventory.

Though both leaders admit the mayor's action in his first 90 days of office is a start to a solution.

"Even if there are 100 more lives changed for the better, that's great," said Kay.

Calderón agreed.

"I think it's great to have a priority on unsheltered homelessness. But that is only the tip of the iceberg," said Calderón.

In his news conference earlier Thursday, the mayor said he is still targeting the November/December time frame for move-in to these units.

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