DENVER – Mayor Michael Hancock on Thursday issued an emergency declaration to prevent what he called a “local humanitarian crisis of unsheltered migrants” as hundreds of people from Central and South America continue to arrive in the Mile High City.
Speaking to reporters Thursday afternoon, Hancock said that while the city had been prepared to welcome groups of migrants that had been coming to the city over the past several months, it’s been only recently that the migrants started to arrive in large numbers and “without any type of advanced notice that we may have had received previously.”
Many of them are asylum-seekers and refugees and were making their way to homeless shelters once they arrived in Denver, which the mayor said was putting an additional burden on that system as the city experiences more winter weather.
Since Monday alone, 247 additional migrants had arrived in Denver, adding to the more than 411 that are currently here as of Thursday afternoon, Hancock said. Earlier in the day, he told Denver7 that more than 700 migrants from Central and South America had arrived to the city over the past several months.
So far, Mayor Hancock estimated the city has spent an excess of $800,000 responding the influx of migrants from the southern border.
On Wednesday, city officials announced they had transformed a second, unnamed city recreation center into an emergency shelter after the first location reached its capacity of 275 people even with support from local churches to temporarily house incoming migrants. The second emergency shelter has a capacity to shelter an additional 100 of these migrants, Hancock said.
“This influx of migrants, the anticipated nature of their arrival, and our current space and staffing challenges have put an immense strain on city resources to the level where they’re on the verge of reaching a breaking point,” Hancock said.
The declaration will give city and county officials more resources and funding without having to go through the normal expenditure process to help migrants coming to Denver, as the city works to reunify them with family and friends who may be scattered in other cities across the country.
Hancock also called on nonprofits, businesses and faith communities to help with additional support, especially, he asked those who have space to shelter migrants to head to denvergov.org/oem and contact the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) if they’re interested in helping out. They can also email the OEM at EOC_Liason@denvergov.org or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We also need volunteers,” Hancock said. “Our staffing levels are currently stretched extremely thin and staffing is one of our main factors in determining how many people we can shelter at a given location.”
Those wanting to volunteer can also head to the city’s OEM website and sign up.
“Cities all over this country are once again having to respond because of the failure of our Congress and federal government to address a very critical situation,” Hancock said, calling on elected officials at the federal level to put aside politics and “recognize the humanitarian crisis that have come to our borders and have now put a strain on cities all over this country to respond.”
He continued, “Address this issue of immigration. It is a crisis point right now and cities all over this country are being faced to deal with something that we’re not equipped to deal with.”
The mayor said he had also sent a letter to mayors in the region asking for their engagement as well, and to collaborate if they see migrants moving into their municipalities.
In a statement, Colorado Governor Jared Polis' office said, "The Governor instructed DOLA to open up additional funding for local governments that are in need of temporarily expanding their shelter capacity. Our emergency management team is actively engaged with local municipalities and planning for potential scenarios in which this becomes a statewide event.”
Denver7 also reached out to Congresswoman Diana DeGette, who represents Colorado's 1st District. Her office said she is "working closely with local officials to make sure they have the resources and support they need."
Sen. Michael Bennet's office, meanwhile, said they're monitoring the situation, and added they're prepared to help however they can.
"Colorado has always been a welcoming place, and I’m pleased to see the city of Denver and community organizations step up with resources and aid," Bennet said in a statement. "It’s past time for Washington to stop exploiting the crisis at the border for politics and come together in a bipartisan way to fix our broken immigration system.”
City asking for the community’s help to deal with influx of migrants
Over the weekend, Denver officials announced a location where donations can be dropped off if Denverites are interested in helping arriving migrants. Officials said these are the items most urgently needed:
- New men’s underwear
- New women’s underwear
- New women’s sports bras
- Feminine products
- Long sleeve shirts (men’s, women’s and unisex)
- Jeans (men’s and women’s with special need for M)
- New Socks (men’s and women’s)
- New sweatshirts and sweatpants (S, M & L, both men’s and women’s)
- Closed toe gym shoes (both men’s, women’s, boys, girls, infants)
- Winter coats and pullovers (men’s, women’s, children, and infants)
These items can be dropped off at Iglesia Ciudad De Dios, located at 5255 W. Warren Avenue in Denver. Donated items can be dropped off on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
On Wednesday, city officials also said they recognized that their efforts to help these migrants cause an inconvenience to residents who utilize the city’s recreation centers. For that reason, residents who use rec. centers that were transformed into emergency shelters can visit any recreation center and the upcharge fee will be waived.
"We're asking our residents for patience. We know that our rec. centers are not built for this, this isn't that what they're for," Hancock said. "We're going to try to return them as quickly as possible."
Rec. center members can contact email@example.com with questions, should they have them.
In closing remarks, Hancock again called on Congress to "get off the politics" and address the immigration crisis that has existed since before the coronavirus pandemic.
"Recognize that we've got to fix this immigration issue," Hancock said. "This is going to continue to happen, continue to overwhelm cities all over this country until Congress works on fixing this situation."
Denver7's Meghan Lopez contributed to this report.