DENVER — Denver’s city council will consider extending Mayor Mike Johnston’s state of emergency on homelessness during Monday's meeting.
It will come on the same day the city’s emergency operations center will activate.
The operations center will bring together people from different agencies and departments to coordinate the city’s response to the emergency.
Under state law, Johnston’s emergency declaration, which he issued last Tuesday, cannot last beyond seven days without city council approval.
A resolution filed by City Council President Jamie Torres asks the council to extend the mayor’s emergency declaration to August 21.
"The City faces a humanitarian crisis that requires it to take extraordinary measures to meet the immediate needs of City residents living unsheltered," the resolution says.
Johnston says the emergency declaration was necessary to speed up state and federal resources to address what he describes as “the most significant issue” facing Denver.
“If we can get 1,000 people housed over the next six months, that would put us on an incredibly successful pace to be able to meet the whole need that is out there,” Johnston said.
Few people know better what it’s like to be homeless than Ana Gloom.
“I was homeless on and off for 10 years,” said Gloom. “I've lost friends on the streets due to drugs, due to freezing to death, due to just old age and health. And I'm tired of watching it.”
Gloom is glad the city’s new mayor is prioritizing the homelessness crisis.
“I'm hoping for the best out of this because it does free up more money. It makes houselessness a bigger priority in his office at the moment, which it needed,” said Gloom, who works with Housekeys Action Network Denver.
Housekeys Action Network Denver said Johnston’s state of emergency could be good or bad.
The group said the emergency declaration should not be used to criminalize people further and should not focus exclusively on the people who live on the streets.
“We don't want the city just to be like, ‘Okay, the encampments are gone, problems solved,’” said Gloom. “Rich people [will be] happy because they can't see us anymore, but that's not dealing with the underlying problem in the first place.”
The group also said the emergency declaration should create “real, lasting, new housing options.”
The group said it does not consider SOS camps, tiny home villages, hotel shelters, and safe outdoor parking sites housing.
“When we ask for housing, we want housing,” said Gloom. “Those are temporary solutions in the long run. Those end and have tons of restrictions. What we want is our own homes.”
Johnston says even if the city meets its goal of getting get 1,000 people off the streets by the end of the year, the work isn’t over.
“We know that this will not this work will not be done, will not be completed, will not be over in the process of this emergency declaration,” the mayor said. “But it will be a chance for us to galvanize all the leaders in the city to take courageous action to start the work that we think can lead to dramatic outcomes.”
A 2022 Point in Time Count shows about 1,300 people live on the streets of Denver each night.
Thousands more live in shelters and other temporary housing facilities.
Cathy Alderman with the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless says she’s encouraged by what she’s seen so far.
“Homelessness is an extraordinarily complex issue,” said Alderman. “I also think there's a lot of details that we're waiting to learn and that as we learn more about those details, we'll really understand how this is going to be funded, what's going to be expected of the community, and of the service providers, and how it's actually all going to come to bear.”
Gloom, meanwhile, is taking a wait-and-see approach.
“I'm trying to keep optimism, but again, I am a firm believer of I'll believe it when I see it,” said Gloom.