DENVER — With only a few weeks left in 2023, it’s crunch time for city leaders as they try to meet Mayor Mike Johnston’s goal of housing 1,000 people by the end of the year.
On Friday, the city announced it was taking another major step toward meeting that goal.
The city said it will be closing encampments at 20th and Curtis and 48th and Colorado over the next couple of weeks.
The city said the 200 people who live at those sites will be offered housing.
“The previous policy was just to move camps from one corner to the next, just move the problem down the street,” said Cole Chandler, the mayor’s senior homelessness advisor. “We've really focused on how can we create long-term solutions and get people indoors.”
Chandler said everyone the city has approached has been interested in moving into housing.
“We've gone into these encampments, and when we've offered someone a hotel unit when we've offered someone a micro-community unit, and we've offered someone a leased unit, they've said, yes, that's where I want to be,” said Chandler. “Basically, a hundred percent of people are interested.”
The city's homelessness dashboard shows that 311 people experiencing homelessness have been moved indoors as of Friday.
Despite criticism about his homeless initiative, including from some city council members who have complained about a lack of transparency, Johnston and his team are confident they will be able to meet his goal.
“We’re confident that we are. We’re always confident,” Johnston told Denver7 Wednesday. “We always go forward believing all things are possible and we’re going to keep fighting to make that a reality.”
John Hughes has lived on the streets of Denver for the last few years.
“I became homeless in late 2016,” Hughes said.
Hughes said he ended up on the streets after a vicious attack.
“Guy hit me with a baseball bat 27 times inside my head trying to kill me,” said Hughes.
He said the attack left him with a brain injury.
“I was supposed to, to go to a long-term, I guess rehabilitation. And I chose not to. So, they said, well, the only other option is the streets,” said Hughes.
Hughes said living on the streets has been a tough experience.
“It's never easy. I mean this has never been an easy task. It really is a whole different life [and] world,” said Hughes, adding that freezing weather and personal safety were a constant worry.
But his luck recently turned around.
Hughes said the city closed an encampment where he lived and offered him a hotel unit at the former Best Western the city purchased.
He said the last several weeks living there have been good.
“We don't have to be there at a certain time. We don't have a curfew. And we can come and go as we would in our own house,” Hughes said.
He gives credit to Johnston, who he says is doing what previous mayors have only promised.
“He's at least being a man of his word,” said Hughes. “He said what he was, he was going to get us off the street. He's starting to do that. So, I think he's doing a great job.”