Editor's note: The Denver City Council unanimously approved the purchase and conversion of the Embassy Suites hotel on Monday. Click here to read more.
DENVER — A plan to convert an Embassy Suites hotel off Hampden Avenue into a homeless shelter is drawing the ire of the community in southeast Denver, while putting the mayor on the defensive.
The Embassy Suites at 7525 E. Hampden Avenue is the latest temporary shelter that Denver Mayor Mike Johnston is looking to use as part of his House1000 initiative.
The city is planning to convert the 200-room hotel into housing, specifically targeting families with children.
“Being a low-barrier shelter — so we’re talking about drug addicts, alcoholics, sex offenders,” said Regina Robards, whose family has owned Las Caras Mexican Grill since 1996. “How is that safe for kids? I understand they need a place, but it’s just not going to be safe for these families.”
The deal also lacked transparency, according to Robards and other neighboring residents.
“We’re concerned,” said Rosemary Guilmette, president of the Morningside HOA which has 10 buildings and 434 units right next door to the Embassy Suites. “Who’s going to monitor the shelter and keep this community safe? Where are the resources for these families that are going into the Embassy Suites?”
At a meeting this past weekend attended by hundreds of concerned community members, Mayor Johnston listened to concerns while defending his plan.
The shelter will be a low-barrier site, but substance use will not be permitted at the hotel, according to Johnston.
Mayor Johnston identifies newest site for families experiencing homelessness
The Salvation Army would operate the shelter if it gets Denver City Council approval Monday.
Under the purchase agreement for nearly $31 million, the city could begin using the shelter immediately.
If the plan gains council approval, families could begin moving in before the end of the year — less than two weeks away.
Johnston has said that more than 100 families are already on the waiting list to live in the hotel.
“This is a family site, and we're committed to this being a family site,” Johnston said. “That's what the council would push for. So, we think it’s going to help make it successful. And that's why we're doing it. We know we don't want kids on the streets of the city and that's why we've focused on this as our first family site, and we’re really excited about it.”
But getting the community to buy-in to that excitement is a different story.
“It’s a messy situation,” Guilmette said. “You can’t tell me that our insecurities are unfounded. I don’t think this was really thought out enough to put them in a suburban area like this with the overflow going into our neighborhoods. Again, who will provide security?”