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Denver motel serving as shelter to close next week, leaving dozens without a transition plan

Mother of 3 struggling to find stable housing near her children's schools
Quality Inn Zuni Street Denver homeless shelter
Posted at 9:14 PM, Sep 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-09 23:14:34-04

DENVER — A Denver motel that serves as a shelter for people experiencing homelessness will close Sept. 16.

The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless began leasing the Quality Inn on Zuni Street and 27th Avenue during the pandemic and used Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds to operate the facility, housing more than 150 people towards the end of August.

On Aug. 17, the coalition began notifying residents that the motel will be closing, leaving dozens like Michele Colvard without plans to transition to another facility.

"We haven't had this type of stability or consistency in our life in years," she said.

It's the type of stability that's taken Colvard years to provide for her three children.

"We had been chronically homeless," she said. "I was escaping a domestic violence situation. So, I drove here from Nevada to get away from that, and these people helped me."

For the last year, Colvard's family has been staying at the Quality Inn. She's among the nearly 60% of individuals there that haven't found another place to stay.

"I'm wondering how I'm gonna get my kids back and forth to school from wherever it is that we move," Colvard said.

Her concerns are echoed by others like Mike Flores, who's struggling to plan his next steps.

"Me and my wife are legally married, and they're trying to break us up," Flores said. "There's no places for couples."

In a statement to Denver7, a spokesperson for Denver's Department of Housing Stability (DHS) said in part, "Colorado Coalition for the Homeless is working with shelter guests on individual case plans to meet their individual needs. There are a handful of non-congregate shelter programs and shelter alternatives that can serve couples together. In the event all of those shelter resources are full, couples may have to stay individually while they wait for one of those resources to open up."

The spokesperson also said DHS is confident it can provide new housing for everyone at the Quality Inn.

"Shelter staff continues to work closely with all guests to provide transition support to get them into other shelter or housing," the statement read.

The city has been using FEMA funds to operate the facility, which was never intended to be a permanent option for individuals experiencing homelessness. However, the city is expecting the funds to dwindle, which is why the closure was initiated.

"While there is not currently an end date to the federal disaster declaration, if/when a date is set, there is expected to be a wind down period for emergency shelter operations," the DHS statement said.

Two other facilities-turned-shelters are also a funded with that money — the Aloft hotel in downtown Denver, which is leased by the city, and another location the city did not disclose for privacy reasons, which is operated by the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless. About 140 people are staying at those facilities, which are expected to close on Dec. 31.

Some staying at the Quality Inn questioned why the city was closing the motel that houses the most people.

DHS responded in part, saying, "A number of factors related to buildings, amenities, preferences of operating partners weighed into this decision."

For Colvard, the relief that came with unpacking bags somewhere stable was indescribable. It was the sense of security that was unfamiliar to her family — a necessity that Colvard says they will hunt for again.

"This was, like, so short notice. It's like everybody's just, like, kind of in limbo, and we're just wondering where we're gonna go, what we're gonna do," she said.

DHS says case managers continue to work with individuals at the Quality Inn to ensure they don't end up back on the streets.