DENVER (KDVR) — Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and city leaders announced new steps the city is taking to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic Wednesday, with a focus on cleaning up unsanctioned campsites and expanding housing services.
The mayor was joined by Department of Housing Stability Executive Director Britta Fisher, Denver Rescue Mission President and CEO Brad Meuli, along with representatives from the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless and Catholic Charities.
“We are here to focus on homelessness. Without question, the pandemic has significantly worsened the situation in Denver,” Hancock said.
Now, Hancock is putting a plan in place to get it under control, starting with a plan to move some of the city’s unhoused into hotels.
After that, he wants the city to work on making outdoor spaces less dangerous.
“We’ll be expanding indoor innovative solutions, such as safe outdoor spaces for those who are living out on our streets — solutions that will provide basic amenities, sanitation, rehousing support,” Hancock said.
Though the city is exploring creative options, the mayor is making it clear: unsanctioned campsites in the city will not be tolerated.
“While we must show compassion for our unhoused neighbors and provide them with dignified options, I stand here today to confirm my support for the city’s unauthorized camping ordinance. We will soon be deploying our civilian enforcement team to support our efforts,” Hancock said.
The announcement comes after advocates accused the city of hiding the homeless ahead of the All-Star Game, which is two weeks away. Hancock insisted the crackdown has nothing to do with the big game.
“You’re going to see us get to as many of the encampments as we possibly can, because we find them to be unsafe and unhealthy for the residents and tenants of the encampments, as well as the general public,” Hancock said. “So, are we going to clean them up? Yes. Have we ordered them to step up the numbers? No. We’re going to have more people and more mechanisms to enforce the law in our city.”
Ultimately, city leaders say the key to ending the problem is making housing more affordable and creating more places to house people. Such an effort could be made possible in part by $14.6 million of funding voters approved in November.
“With our thanks to Denver voters with the passage of (Initiative) 2B, in the first six months of the new Homelessness Resolution Fund, we are supporting 440 beds as 24/7 shelter in Denver today,” said Britta Fisher, Denver’s chief housing officer. “We are rehousing 220 households in rapid rehousing and supportive housing programs and creating more than 160 supportive housing units with support services. These are the types of solutions we need, and we are so grateful to our voters for entrusting these funds to us to deliver to our community.”
The press conference happened at Denver’s newest 24/7 shelter, which just opened last week.
You can re-watch the event on FOX31 NOW in the player below.