Metropolis Council approves funding for Johnston’s pallet shelters, however questions on spending linger

The pallet shelters present non-public areas with a mattress, storage, shops, heating and air-con.

Angela Browne, an advocate for unhoused residents who is currently living in a converted hotel shelter, holds a protest sign as city officials sweep an encampment on Stout Street. Aug. 4, 2023.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Mayor Mike Johnston’s administration took a step towards its aim of sheltering 1,000 individuals experiencing homelessness by Dec. 31 on Monday. Metropolis Council accepted a $7 million contract for momentary pallet shelters for 200 individuals.

The pallet shelters present non-public areas with a mattress, storage, shops, heating and air-con. The communities, much like town’s protected outside websites, may have widespread areas and bogs, together with wraparound providers. Johnston mentioned every metropolis district will host a web site, and launched an inventory of preliminary areas on Thursday.

Earlier than approving the contract for the shelters with Pallet PBC Inc., some council members questioned the $7 million price ticket for shelters that may in the end be momentary. That price doesn’t embody a future contract with a company to run the shelter websites.

“I recognize how rapidly you all are shifting,” mentioned Councilmember Stacie Gilmore. “However we as Council have a fiduciary accountability to ensure that that funding is an efficient deal for our taxpayers.”

Gilmore cited a presentation from the Division of Housing Stability (HOST) Wednesday that mentioned town spends between $15,000 to $35,000 on improvement per unit of reasonably priced rental housing and $45,000 on improvement per unit of supportive housing, types of everlasting apartment-style housing.

For comparability, HOST mentioned town yearly spends $25,000 per mattress at a 24/7 group shelter, $32,000 per mattress at non-congregate shelters and $15,000 per mattress at different shelters like protected outside websites and tiny houses.

Cole Chandler, Johnston’s senior advisor for homelessness decision, mentioned that the $35,000  per unit determine for long-term housing is barely a portion of the general price. He added the pallet shelters are at the moment projected to price $17,000 per unit, as a result of different prices within the contract embody cash for group buildings and bogs.

“I definitely don’t need to place it as if it’s an either-or of whether or not or not we’re going to spend money on long run reasonably priced housing or whether or not or not we’re going to spend money on what we’d like on this second,” Chandler mentioned. “Housing is the answer to homelessness. We totally perceive that… [short-term shelter] is required simply because the long-term reasonably priced housing unit is required.”

Nonetheless, metropolis funding is proscribed, and officers want to determine the stability between short-term and long-term investments.

Activists have questioned the concentrate on short-term shelter. Therese Howard, an organizer with Housekeys Motion Community, instructed Denverite she desires to see extra funding in long run housing models. As an alternative of short-term shelters, she desires Denver to make use of a grasp leasing system the place town sublets residences to renters as a option to open up speedy housing into long-term models.

Councilmember Jamie Torres mentioned that Denver already spends some huge cash responding to town’s homelessness and housing disaster within the second by means of oblique prices, together with issues like emergency room providers, drug restoration packages and police spending.

An April audit report of town’s homeless sweeps discovered that town spent $13.65 million responding to encampments between Jan. 2019 and June 2022, however that the actual price is probably going larger as a result of it doesn’t embody police bills. In the meantime, UCHealth reported a report variety of frostbite sufferers final winter.

“If we don’t home individuals ultimately on a bridge to one thing else, we’ll nonetheless pay,” Torres mentioned.

Metropolis Council unanimously handed the funding Monday. However Gilmore gave the Mayor’s workplace directions for future contracts to come back.

“We’ll vote affirmatively tonight on this invoice, however we’d like a lot better price profit evaluation. You’re occurring 4 weeks right here. I believe we’ve given our grace and assist round this,” she mentioned. “We, on the finish of the day, do have restricted {dollars} to go round and need to ensure that we’re not solely investing for immediately, however for the long run for these {dollars}.”


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