DENVER — As Mayor Mike Johnston announced another major development in his plan to address the homelessness crisis on Wednesday, some Denver city council members said they were frustrated with a lack of communication and information from his office about its work to address the homelessness and migrant crises, two of the biggest issues facing the city.
Some city council members have shared those concerns with administration officials during committee hearings over the last couple of months. But things took a turn this week when Councilwoman Stacie Gilmore, who represents District 11 in northeast Denver, announced she was stepping down as chair of one of the city council’s most powerful committees.
“I decided to step down as chair of the Safety Committee because I didn't feel like I was being provided with all the information that I needed to be a good chair of the Safety Committee,” Gilmore said. “I need to have full access and timely access to important information.”
The Safety Committee also deals with housing and homelessness issues and is the first stop for the mayor’s team if they want the council to approve his agenda.
Gilmore said the mayor’s team provides just enough information to get their proposals — including contracts — through the committee, but leaves them in the dark about a lot of other things.
For instance, Gilmore said, she didn’t find out about a migrant shelter that opened in her district until very recently.
“It was open early October and I found out about it on Friday,” said Gilmore.
Gilmore also said she didn’t learn about an important community meeting on rezoning in her district until a few days before it was held.
She said such short notice made it difficult for many of her constituents to rearrange their schedules so they could attend.
“That is not equitable. That is not partnership. That is rolling over a community,” said Gilmore, who added that the standing protocol has been to give the community a six weeks’ notice to ensure a good turnout.
Mayor Johnston identifies newest site for families experiencing homelessness
Gilmore spoke with Denver7 on Wednesday, moments after she stepped down as chair of the Safety Committee.
Gilmore believes she can do a better job for her constituents as a regular member of the committee. This way, she could concentrate on questioning city officials instead of also having to run the meetings.
Our partners at The Denver Post report council members aired their grievances with the mayor’s migrant response team at a non-televised hearing on Tuesday, which is when Gilmore announced her intentions to resign as chair of the Safety Committee.
“This, I think, was a peak of frustrations from different council members who feel not that we're being lied to, but that the people that we're talking to and expecting answers from are not communicating with one another,” said Council President Jamie Torres. “I think we’ve seen some steps forward and some steps backward. Hopefully, this is a wake-up call that things need to be brought together.”
Torres said the council sent the mayor’s team a letter this week, asking for them to come up with a new action plan for the migrant crisis.
“Frankly, for our migrant crisis, we should have had a new action plan back when we had only 500 people in the shelter,” said Torres, who noted that Johnston only took office less than six months ago and the crisis began under the previous administration.
Since last December, when the city began keeping records, more than 27,000 migrants have arrived in Denver from the southern border. The city says it has spent $32 million sheltering and supporting the migrants.
Mike Johnston addresses Denver’s migrant crisis in CNN interview
As for the homelessness crisis, the mayor announced earlier Wednesday the Embassy Suites at 7525 E. Hampden in southeast Denver could become the fourth hotel to be converted into housing as part of his plan to house 1,000 people by the end of the year.
The hotel would house families with children, along with transgender and gender non-conforming individuals. It's now up to Denver City Council to approve the site.
As for the council’s criticism, Johnston said his team has been “working diligently” to get people housed while keeping the council informed.
“We are working diligently to get people living on the streets, both those experiencing homelessness and migrants, indoors as cold weather arrives. We are moving with the urgency this dire situation requires,” Johnston said. “We've been straightforward with council members by providing them with information as soon as we have it. These situations change quickly and we will continue to inform council as we work toward our joint effort to support those most in need.”
During its meeting Wednesday, the Safety Committee advanced a $4.2 million contract with Satellite Shelters to provide up to 14 community buildings for micro-community sites. The buildings will be used for administration offices, meals, socializing, laundry, and bathrooms.
The committee is now tasked with moving this contract forward to the full city council.
The committee also advanced a $1.7 million contract with the Salvation Army to provide meals to micro-community sites. The Salvation Army will provide three meals a day to micro-community residents. The cost of each meal is as follows: $4.17 for breakfast, $7.44 for lunch, and $7.45 for dinner.
As of Wednesday morning, the city has housed 292 people, which is just under a third of the way to the mayor’s goal of housing 1,000 people by the end of the year.