DENVER (KDVR) — Questions were left on the table when Denver’s new mayor announced his plans to get 1,000 people housed by the end of the year last week. Following some communication mix-up concerns about how he plans to get it done, the mayor held a follow-up press conference Tuesday. He went into more detail about what his emergency declaration means for people experiencing homelessness in the city.
Johnston’s plan to get more people housed is layered but he wanted to make it clear Tuesday: the difference in his approach is getting folks into housing.
“The reason why the previous challenges have not been solved is because we cannot move people off of one block if they have no place to go. They end up just on the next block,” Johnston explained to the media. “And so we believe by actually matching people with housing units that offer dignity and stability, we can get them out of places where they are unsheltered and into housing that also allows us to get back those public spaces that can be open for everybody to use.”
Public spaces like parks, neighborhood corners, alleyways and public streets are the majority of where the homeless end up in the city.
Johnston said his emergency declaration for homelessness is all about offering housing options for the unhoused and coordinated services from providers once people get into those spaces.
There are four categories of housing the city is hoping to provide:
- Existing rental units: Landlords work with the city for immediate housing
- Hotel conversions: Which could require retrofitting and repairing
- Micro-communities and villages: Safe outdoor spaces and tiny homes
- Commercial buildings: Retrofitted for noncongregate or congregate shelters
The mayor said price points for the housing would differ depending on which units the city decides to house people in. He is also looking to increase clean-up and trash collection around existing sites to keep neighborhoods safe and clean while housing comes together. Finding providers to administer wraparound services for each type of housing unit will also be a task the city will have to grapple with.
The mayor said the entire plan is about getting people housed and what he calls “decommissioning” or ending encampments from neighborhoods. That will take some time and partnership with members of the city council.
“This extension runs through the end of August. So, we obviously will have this going through the balance of the year so we anticipate we will need more time. The council gave us very helpful feedback on what they want to see over the course of this next extension to be able to do that and most of those include the details you’ve asked about today in terms of plans, in terms of budget, in terms of sites, in terms of providers,” Johnston said.
Johnston said his office had a long conversation with the city council following Monday’s 11 to 1 vote to extend the emergency declaration. Members expressed concerns about a lack of communication from the office ahead of the vote.
Councilmembers kick off their 78-neighborhood tour focused on services for the unhoused Tuesday night.