DENVER — The city will begin closing a migrant encampment near Zuni and Speer in Denver on Wednesday and will open two new congregate shelters.
“This site is not necessarily safe, it's not necessarily healthy at this point,” said Jon Ewing, a spokesman for Denver Human Services.
Ewing said the shelters will provide the city with an opportunity to help the migrants transition to the next phase of their lives.
Over 1,500 migrants from Central and South America have arrived in Denver in the past week, according to the latest figures from the city.
Like thousands of others who’ve migrated from Central and South America, Arturo Verde came to the United States looking for a better life.
“We know that we are not liked by everyone, but in reality, all the people who died along the journey had a dream of getting ahead and achieving many things,” said Verde.
A native of Venezuela, Verde has been in Denver for three months, spending most days at the encampment at Zuni and 27th waiting and hoping to find employment.
He said he came to the U.S. without any family members.
“It’s a little difficult for me to be alone here,” said Verde.
But soon he and others at the encampment will have to leave.
Ewing said the city will begin closing the encampment this week and will open two new shelters for the migrants on Wednesday.
“We've been going in and we've been basically speaking with people and we've been telling them about the encampment closure,” Ewing said.
One shelter has space for 200 people. Another has space for 120 people.
Ewing said the shelters are meant to be a temporary stop for the migrants.
“Thirty days is the length of stay,” said Ewing. “The goal is not to stay in the shelter.”
Ewing said the goal is to get the migrants into housing or help them get to other destinations if they’re interested in leaving Denver.
Ewing says 300 migrants have filled out rental applications for housing and 95 of them have either moved in or will soon move into their new homes.
Ewing said the city will cover their expenses until the migrants can get on their feet.
For those who are working, the city will cover the first month’s rent, and security deposit fees, Ewing said.
“And then if they're not working at the moment, we’ll maybe cover up to three months,” Ewing said.
But the city can’t take care of the migrants alone.
“We don't have the funding to do this forever,” said Ewing. “Until the federal government comes through with the money that we've been requesting for several months now, for the better part of a year now, we're not going to be able to do that.”
The city has spent $36 million helping over 35,000 migrants over the past year.
The city has received $3.5 million from the State of Colorado and $1.6 million from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The federal government has pledged to reimburse Denver up to $9 million.
Mayor Mike Johnston has been pushing the federal government to provide more funding and resources.
Tom Kowal knows the difficult position the city finds itself in.
That’s why he is doing his part to help.
Kowal pulled up to the encampment in a truck and was immediately surrounded by migrants. He handed them cases of water and some packages of cheese.
“I bring water a few times a week,” said Kowal.
Kowal said he feels a responsibility to help in any way he can.
“Because these folks are just like my grandparents,” he said. “They're migrating to this country for a reason. They can't make it where they're at. They're coming here because this is the land of opportunity.”