Denver’s dwindling migrant shelters

Denver is closing all migrant hotel shelters but one, a signal that services are winding down.  The city had planned to keep three hotel shelters open for migrants, but announced Monday that it would consolidate services at one hotel.

After this week, Denver will have just one hotel for migrants who need a place to sleep after arriving in the city, a sign that the 15-month, $63 million effort to shelter new arrivals is winding down. The announcement Monday that Denver Human Services would close three of the remaining four hotel shelters this week came as a surprise, since Mayor Mike Johnston had previously said the city would continue operating three hotels as shelters. That’s down from a max of seven hotels around the city that Denver was leasing for migrant housing.

The decision comes as the number of daily arrivals has been declining. About 60 people, mainly from Venezuela and other South American countries, got off buses in Denver on Sunday, and 50 more arrived Monday — that’s a significant drop from previous months when migrants were coming at the pace of 200 or 300 per day. Denver was paying for shelter for nearly 5,000 people in January. That number dropped to 730 this week.

The single hotel, in northwestern Denver, as well as a congregate shelter in a church, can provide beds for about 800 or more people if necessary, Denver Human Services spokesman Jon Ewing said. The city also has “bridge housing” to temporarily shelter families with children as they transition from hotel rooms to apartments. “We’ve gone from 10 facilities to three and have avoided widespread encampment issues,” he said. “The goal now is to continue working toward a long-term plan so we can take care of people and our budget at the same time.”

Authorities were working last week to clear a migrant camp that had grown in a parking lot at Elitch Gardens, where tents stretched along a sidewalk across the fence from a roller coaster. Campers packed up after receiving notice that they had to vacate before the camp was cleaned up. The amusement park opens this month.

About half of the 40,295 migrants who have arrived in Denver since December 2022 have stayed in city-funded hotel rooms, while the other half chose to continue on to other cities across the country. Adults are allowed to stay 14 days, while families have 42 days to find a more permanent place to live, typically with help from various nonprofits that have covered their first month’s rent.

Denver Human Services is continuing to help migrants apply for work authorization, assisting with 1,400 enrollments in the past two months. Reducing hotel shelters to a single site will save money on staffing and security, Ewing said. “We’re working toward long-term sustainability,” he said.

The downsize comes only about a week after volunteers were scrambling to find shelter for families with children who had timed out of their hotel stays and had nowhere to sleep. As a winter storm loomed, Denver opened a city building in Civic Center park as an emergency shelter for kids and their parents, who were rescued from hotel lobbies after having to vacate their rooms.

About 10 families needed the shelter.

#  #  #

Filed Under: FeaturedHot TopicsMedia Release

About the Author: