Denver’s finance and governance committee proposed a resolution to the full council on Tuesday extending the city’s use of 140 rooms at a downtown hotel for high-risk homeless people, as well as a restoration agreement.
The city began providing food and shelter at the Aloft Hotel at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with a recent surge in cases, the city wants to continue to provide this option for the most vulnerable should they contract. the virus. Many of the people staying at the Aloft are older and use wheelchairs or walkers, oxygen tanks, or have serious medical conditions.
“We have an immediate need to continue our non-congregate sheltering and safe spacing for vulnerable and high-risk people experiencing homelessness, and we are currently doing this at the Aloft Hotel as well as three other hotel sites,” Angie Nelson, Manager deputy of the Denver Department of Housing Stability, said at the committee meeting.
Lisa Lumley, Denver’s real estate director, said the resolution would extend the emergency occupancy agreement with JBK Hotels LLC, which manages the Aloft, an additional six months through the end of 2022.
The accommodations deal will cost the City up to $13.3M at $95 per day per room, and the food services deal will cost up to $3.3M at $25 per day per room for three meals. The city is also responsible for room cleaning and security and has additional contracts with entities that provide these services.
Aloft’s 140 rooms are for those at high risk of contracting a severe case of COVID. Housing them at the Aloft protects them from the possibility of contracting COVID in a group shelter or in unsheltered conditions. Nelson said 70 of the people who have stayed at the Aloft since the program began have since found permanent accommodation. On all the hotel sites in action to protect the city, 343 households have since found permanent accommodation.
“At the end of the day, we know people are best served from a stable housing platform,” Nelson said. “And although temporary shelter stays in single-occupancy shelters are not the same as housing, they have provided a platform through which people can help achieve more stability and achieve their goals towards stable and safe accommodation.”
Nelson acknowledged concerns the city has heard from neighbors around the hotel and said the city has met monthly with the Upper Downtown Neighborhood Association as well as residents of a nearby condominium building. She said the site was secure 24/7 and city officials had previously spoken of increased law enforcement around the building.
At Monday night’s city council meeting, a number of residents encouraged council members not to extend the city’s contract with the Aloft. A resident said hotel guests were using drugs in a nearby alley.
Nelson said some people assume anyone using drugs in the neighborhood is a guest at the Aloft, which she says isn’t always an accurate perception. She said the city is working with Denver police to address concerns, and she encouraged residents who see illegal activity to report it so it can be properly recorded.
“We are working with our operating partner, The Salvation Army, to be mindful and vigilant around patrons who they may observe going out and using substances outside the facility, returning intoxicated, to work with these people to access drug treatment, or have the opportunity,” Nelson said.
Councilman Robin Kniech said anyone who believed Denver didn’t have homelessness or addiction before the Aloft became a city resource shouldn’t live in Denver because it’s a problem in the whole city.