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Data shows seven deaths at Denver hotel shelter since beginning of year

Three people were shot in less than two weeks at a converted shelter for the unhoused in Denver.
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Posted at 5:28 PM, Mar 28, 2024

DENVER — Seven people have died at the city’s converted hotel shelter at 4040 Quebec since the beginning of the year, according to data from Denver’s Department of Public Health and Environment (DDPHE).

The medical examiner has not yet determined an official cause of death in five of those cases. Two others were determined to be homicides after a shooting on March 16.

The data from DDPHE includes both residents and their guests. DDPHE reports there have been two deaths each at the converted hotels located at 4685 Quebec and 4849 Bannock. The other two locations, 4590 Quebec and 7525 E. Hampden, have no reported deaths.

Mayor Mike Johnston's All in Mile High Initiative dashboard records deaths for only residents of the converted shelters or micro-communities. The dashboard reports nine deaths total, between the five former hotels and three micro-communities.

Safety at the hotel shelter is being scrutinized following two shootings in less than two weeks.

Denver Police say a woman was found suffering from a gunshot wound in one of the rooms on Wednesday night and was rushed to the hospital. She is expected to survive.

Several hours later police announced the arrest of 34-year-old Cameron Ware, a resident of the shelter, for attempted murder.

Late Thursday, police also announced the arrest of a second suspect and resident, 43-year-old William Jackson.

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On March 16, a man and woman were shot and killed inside one of the rooms. They were identified as Sandra Cervantes, 43, and Dustin Nunn, 38.

Police are still searching for a suspect in that shooting.

"Those people were just such awesome pillars in this community. They did so much for the people in this place, it's unbelievable," said a resident of the shelter, Jason Hatt. "They weren't personally my friends, but I know who they are. And they have helped so many people, they just sing their praises, long before anything bad happened to them.”

Hatt said he has been living on the streets for a few years, and staying in the shelter for a few months. He considers the former hotel his home, and said it has changed him tremendously in a positive manner.

“I have my own goals and dreams and ambitions and things like that, and I can't let any any of those things grow. They would never take flight, if I didn't have a place to call home," Hatt said. “I want to stick up for the people in here, you know, the staff is doing the best job they can."

The city began increasing security at the shelter following the March 16 shooting, including adding cameras, security guards and implementing a badge system to monitor people coming in and out of the building. Denver Police also increased their presence at the shelter.

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Data shows 7 deaths at hotel shelter this year

Denver Police Chief Ron Thomas and Dr. Jamie Rife, the executive director of Denver's Department of Housing Stability, spoke at a press conference on Thursday afternoon about safety at the converted hotel shelters.

“We have increased security to have eight full-time security guards. They're staffed by the city," said Chief Thomas.

Metal detectors were installed at the 4040 Quebec location early last week, and it is the only converted hotel site with metal detectors currently in place.

Chief Thomas believes the weapon used Wednesday night was inside the shelter before the metal detectors were installed.

“There's the potential that there could be more dangerous items within that facility, which is certainly why we are making that request that, anybody that's aware of that, please let us know," Chief Thomas said. “We are taking measures to try to identify where those guns are. We have deployed some covert assets in order to try to identify rooms where there may be weapons or other, you know, illegal contraband. So, some of those efforts have been successful.”

Dr. Rife said there are a number of reasons why the 4040 Quebec location is reporting more deaths than the other converted hotels.

“It's a much larger facility. So there are more people there, is one of the reasons," said Dr. Rife. "It's set up a little differently. There are some challenges around access points, things like that, that again, we've worked on with security.”

Hatt does not believe metal detectors would stop someone from bringing a weapon inside the shelter.

"Sometimes things are just going to happen that are bad, and it is what it is. I don't know how you get around that, I really don't," Hatt said. "These things happen in tent cities. Nobody really cares. So now people care, which is nice."

The shelter is located in Denver City Councilwoman Shontel Lewis’ district.

Lewis says she’s frustrated with the Salvation Army, the shelter’s service provider.

She says they haven’t provided enough wraparound services to help residents get back on their feet.

“It's not enough to just house people,” said Lewis. “These are people with lives and souls that we should care more about than just moving them from unsheltered homelessness into these facilities, but making sure that they have the resources that they need to survive.”

Without those services, Lewis says people become more desperate.

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“Do I have access to food? Do I have access to transportation? Are there job opportunities that I might have if I need mental health support? Do I have access to a therapist who might be able to help me work through some of these things?” said Lewis. "I'm not saying that may have prevented it, but I think we should have been having this conversation eight months ago and it should never take a death for us to be responsive."

During the press conference on Thursday, Dr. Rife said they are working with The Salvation Army to increase wraparound support and services.

“I just want to reiterate that the safety of the guests, the staff, and the surrounding community continues to be our top priority," Dr. Rife said.

The Salvation Army received a $10 million contract from the City and County of Denver to run the shelter. According to the contract, $808,000 was supposed to go toward security.

Dr. Rife said the city will consider taking that money back, since they are now in charge of security.

"We are going to be looking at, do we need to do a contract amendment now that the city is stepping in to do that security?" Dr. Rife said.

The Salvation Army declined an interview on Thursday and referred Denver7 to the mayor’s office.

Following the March 16 shooting, the Salvation Army released the following statement:

“The safety and wellbeing of our staff, our guests and the community has always been our top priority. The Salvation Army has staff on site 24/7 as part of our services provided at The Aspen (a former DoubleTree). We have a badging system with photo ID cards that all residents and staff must keep with them to receive entry into the facility. Additionally, all our entrances and exits are secure, and we recently installed additional exterior and interior cameras. We have security staff inside and outside of the building. Finally, we’re working with the Denver Police Department, who provide 24-hour presence. The Salvation Army’s mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and meet human needs in His name without discrimination. Helping our neighbors to meet their basic human needs is one way we live the word of The Gospel, and we entrust our work to benefit the community. “

Data shows seven deaths at Denver hotel shelter since beginning of year

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