DENVER (KDVR) — Denver Mayor Mike Johnston gave an update Thursday on the city’s progress on his goal of finding housing for a thousand homeless people by the end of the year.
Johnston declared a disaster state of emergency to address the problem just a day after taking office in July. Thursday’s update came just days after the city cleaned up a big encampment near the governor’s mansion, but now, the city is now facing a new challenge.
The mayor highlighted that this week was a big one to get more people housed, but that comes as more migrants are unexpectedly ending up in Denver.
FOX31 reported on the encampment sweep along Eighth Avenue between Grant and Logan streets in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. The mayor is hailing the closure of that large encampment as a success, because according to him, all 83 people offered housing from that location accepted it.
Those folks are now situated in a former hotel in North Denver. They’ll need to stay there for at least two weeks to be considered successfully housed under the mayor’s plan to house 1,000 people.
Johnston said the closure of that encampment stresses the urgency to get even more people indoors.
“We are focused intensely on bringing on the other 917 units we’re going to need to be able to move more and more people that are unsheltered off the streets and into housing,” Johnston said. “We’re making great progress against that goal, both on our work with micro-communities, on hotels and on direct access to leased units. So this for us is a real affirmation of what we know is a strategy that has worked and will work.”
Denver migrant arrivals on the rise
While the city gets those folks housed, more migrants are starting to stay in city shelters too.
The mayor noted a big reason for the influx of migrants is Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sending buses of people over without warning or any guidance on who these folks are and what they may need.
Abbott has sent 1,500 migrants to Denver since May.
Per the city’s dashboard, 122 newcomers had arrived by noon on Thursday, and 253 arrived on Wednesday. The city’s Joint Information Center said the migrant population in city shelters now exceeds 1,900.
With a steady stream of people arriving in the Mile High City, what is the mayor’s plan to make sure newcomers don’t contribute to the unhoused crisis? Johnston said making sure people get jobs by removing barriers to work access is key.
“One of the first things I hear when I talk to newcomers is they will say: ‘First and foremost, where can I get a job? I want to work. All I want is a chance to work, support myself, support my family. I don’t need charity, I just need a job.’ And what we know is that we have people here who want to work. I also get calls for employees around the city who want to hire people that have arrived, and we have a federal government that gets in the way of employees who want to work and employers who want to hire them,” Johnston said.
To further support incoming migrants, the city issued a request for proposals on Sept. 15. The Joint Information Office detailed the RFP in a statement: “The city is looking to contract out five types of services: program management, running the reception center, shelter operations, transportation, and donation management. Respondents can bid on the whole suite of services, or on just one, or a combination. This type of RFP allows local organizations who have been doing the work here in Denver for months to successfully bid on the services they provide. Proposals are due on October 13, 2023.”