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Here's how the Denver mayoral candidates would tackle homelessness if elected

Kelly Brough and Mike Johnston have detailed plans with bold promises
Posted at 2:10 PM, May 20, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-20 22:13:25-04

DENVER — It's one of the top issues in the Denver mayor's race, and the two candidates hoping to become the city's next leader have released ambitious plans to address homelessness.

One candidate promises to end homelessness in their first term. The other vows to eliminate homeless encampments by the end of their first year.

According to the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative's most recent Point in Time Count, some 1,300 people sleep on the streets of Denver each night.

Thousands of others sleep in shelters across the metro.

Many are just one paycheck or emergency away from falling behind on their rent or mortgage and ending up homeless.

For Denver resident Lelia Odom, it's a constant worry.

"I am the working, I'm the working disabled,” said Odom. “So, there are people that are like me that are continuously being pushed out."

That's why she attended a recent community forum with Denver mayoral candidates Kelly Brough and Mike Johnston.

"As a senior, as a woman of color, as a person that has been homeless, I'd like to know what the next mayor is going to do for people like me,” said Odom.

Odom says any successful homelessness plan must help people transition to permanent housing.

“Because if you house a person and you don’t have the transition in place, it’s not going to work. It’s just repeated homelessness,” said Odom. “It’s just a repeated, vicious cycle.”

Both Brough and Johnston say tackling homelessness in Denver will be one of their top priorities if elected, and each candidate has released a detailed plan.

Johnston pledges to end homelessness in Denver by the end of his first term.

He says he’ll do that by building 10 to 20 micro-communities across the city.

"You take half-acre lots around the city that the city owns, and you put 40 or 50 tiny homes on that site,” explained Johnston. “These tiny homes have heating, they have air conditioning, they got a lock and a key. You got a bed and a desk. You have access to showers and kitchen and all the things you need to get people back up on their feet."

Brough says she will eliminate unsanctioned encampments by the end of her first year in office.

As an alternative, Brough says she will provide sanctioned camping sites for people to go to until permanent housing can be found.

She says she’ll also work with regional partners on a long-term plan because Denver cannot do it alone.

"I think there's an urgency,” said Brough. “We have to get people to safer locations. I'll do that by temporarily sanctioning outdoor sites so we can get people there immediately while we build as a region what we need to get everyone indoors.”

Both candidates would also continue enforcing the city’s camping ban for people who remain on the streets and refuse to take advantage of the services and housing offered.

Both would also continue converting hotels into housing.

And both say they will do more to try to prevent homelessness in the first place by strengthening and building support programs.

Denver’s mayoral election is on June 6.

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