Denver launches new homeless and affordable housing strategy

DENVER -- The city of Denver is launching a new strategy to deal with its growing homeless population while providing more affordable housing.

Mayor Michael Hancock announced the plan Friday at his third annual Homeless and Housing Summit.

At the same time, city workers were removing garbage left on the sidewalk at 21st and Champa streets where some of Denver's working poor had set up camp.

"I've been homeless a couple of times in my life. This has been the first time I ain't able to bounce right back of out of it just from being a hard worker," said Frederick Jackson, who said he’s working three part-time jobs.

That's just one issue targeted by Hancock in the new coordinated plan of attack with job training, health services and affordable housing.

"No longer just one initiative or one program touching those individuals in need it has to be a comprehensive approach," said Erik Solivan, the newly appointed director of Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere.

The city already has committed $150 million toward affordable housing for what it says are nearly three out of four homeless who work. One in five are seniors.

The mayor said the plan will also address a major issue with the "chronically" homeless.

"Taking a more progressive informed approach with our chronically homeless and other folks who are on our streets or dealing with addiction and behavioral health challenges and we are seeing impact and we are seeing effectiveness," he said.

Encampments like the one on 21st and Champa streets are what most people see of the homeless with little idea how to change it.

"Get rehabilitated and have a different way of life, but I don't think that we should have to walk by and be afraid of our lives," said Jill Kelley, who lives in an apartment near some of the shelters.

"Just a roof over their head will not be enough and that's really what leads us to this multi-pronged approach," Hancock said.

It will require a huge private commitment to work.