DENVER (KDVR) — Homelessness is one of the biggest issues facing the community.

This year’s Point In Time count of people experiencing homelessness in Colorado found nearly 4,800 people experiencing homelessness in Denver alone, with almost 6,900 people unhoused across the entire metro area. Fixing it will present a major challenge for whoever becomes Denver’s next mayor.

Both candidates in Denver’s June mayoral runoff, Mike Johnston and Kelly Brough, acknowledge this a big issue facing the city. While there are some commonalities in their plans to solve it, they have key differences too.

Both Brough and Johnston have said they would continue enforcing the city’s camping ban, which has not been very successful since going into effect 11 years ago. But they say the ban can’t be the only solution.

Side-by-side photos of Denver mayoral candidates Kelly Brough and Mike Johnston during election night
Denver mayoral candidates Kelly Brough and Mike Johnston during election night April 4, 2023 (Credit: AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Kelly Brough on campsites

Brough has pledged to end unsanctioned camping in her first year in office if elected.

“For me, this is about saving lives and getting people to safer locations,” Brough said. “I’d like to get everyone indoors but we’re going to have to sanction, temporarily, safe outdoor sites where we can get people and bring services and support to them. So we can save their lives and, frankly, improve their living conditions and improve the living conditions in the neighborhoods where they are at today.”

But she has made headlines after saying she would arrest people who won’t go inside when the city tries to help them.

“I’m going to use outreach workers to try to get people to agree to go to safer locations but if somebody’s life is in danger, I will use the law and take them to a place like Denver Cares or someplace safe to make sure that, frankly, we are saving their lives and not leaving people to fend for themselves on our streets,” Brough said.

Mike Johnston on affordable housing tax

Mike Johnston was a leading force behind Proposition 123 on last year’s ballot.
Through the initiative, voters narrowly permitted the state to use an annual $300 million in taxes to create affordable housing.

“The first thing we need to do is get people access to housing — housing we can build affordably and quickly,” Johnston said. “So I’ve focused on building micro-communities, where you take half-acre lots around the city, you can put tiny homes on those sites and get people access to housing that has all the wraparound services they need. So that’s like mental health support, addiction treatment, workforce training and get them services they need to get back on their feet and back to work.”

Johnston said the annual $300 million that voters approved will go toward staffing to provide the services.

“So we’ll have the ability to build units with federal dollars and these state dollars help us pay for the services,” Johnston said.

Who’s endorsing Brough, Johnston?

Pro-housing group YIMBY Denver has endorsed Johnston while Brough’s housing plan has been endorsed by several metro-area mayors like those of Lakewood, Lone Tree and Golden.