DENVER (KDVR) — Denver’s new mayor has declared a citywide state of emergency for homelessness. It’s his first significant policy move since he took office on Monday.
As part of the effort, Mayor Mike Johnston pledged to house 1,000 people by the end of the year. But it’s going to take buy-in from the people he’s aiming to help.
“If he really, really wants to do this, he needs to have us at the table, and I mean a variety of everyone,” said Ana Gloom, one of the dozens of people who could lose housing when the Rodeway Inn emergency shelter closes next month.
“We need BIPOC representation,” Gloom said, using the shorthand for Black, Indigenous and people of color. “We need queer representation, we need elderly, we need disabled, because every community has their own unique struggles within being houseless.”
Johnston acknowledges that getting everyone housed will take a team effort.
“Our goal will be to bring together the nonprofit community, the business community, our public leadership, the providers in this city, the faith community, and say, ‘We are all in this together,’ and we all want to be supportive of a Denver we think serves well those who need the most supports,” Johnston said.
Mayor’s plan for homelessness in Denver
As part of the effort, Denver City Council plans to visit the city’s 78 neighborhoods to get input.
Meanwhile, Johnston’s emergency declaration has several goals. He wants to pool state and federal resources, construct more tiny homes and micro-communities and convert more hotels to housing.
Some in the unhoused community say it’s a noble start, but it might not be enough. Gloom worries such solutions can fall short.
“If I ever lose my housing again, I will never step foot in a shelter in this city again unless it was something non-congregate, such as a tiny home or a hotel — but again, those are very short-term solutions in the long run,” Gloom said. “The amount of money you spend putting people in tiny homes, running them through the programs, they could be spending master leasing these apartments.”
The Rodeway Inn has been used since 2020 as a non-congregate shelter for women and LGBTQ people without permanent shelter. But that’s coming to an end, with the Denver Housing Authority set to shut it down on Aug. 24.
“If you want to show that you are really adamant about housing people, here are 70 extremely vulnerable people that could be housed right now,” Gloom said. “And that would be a way of showing that you are serious about fixing this issue and bringing people off of the streets instead of just criminalizing them.”