DENVER — The City and County of Denver is continuing its response to the ongoing influx of migrants to the city.
Earlier this month, city officials converted another recreation center into an emergency, temporary shelter for the migrants who recently arrived to the city from the southern border of the United States.
Citing security reasons, the city is not disclosing which recreation centers are being used as shelter.
A third recreation center is being used as a reception center to help migrants access shelter or reunite with loved ones.
In a Dec. 15 press conference, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said the city's resources are approaching a "breaking point."
"What I don't want to see is a local humanitarian crisis of unsheltered migrants on our hands because of the lack of resources," the mayor said.
Because of that, Hancock issued an emergency declaration, which will free up resources to respond to the sudden increase in demand for funding and housing for the migrants. You can watch the mayor's full press conference here.
Some of the migrants have been able to connect with family and friends once they arrived in Denver.
Since Dec. 9, the city has served approximately 2,627 migrants, according to a Dec. 28 press release. Officials say 694 migrants are staying in the rec centers, while 727 migrants are staying in "partner emergency shelters" — places like churches.
“With migrants continuing to arrive in Denver, additional capacity is needed in order to ensure basic needs are being met while ensuring the city does not experience a humanitarian crisis of keeping hundreds of unhoused migrants displaced in our city,” city officials said in a press release.
Though migrants arrived unexpectedly, the mayor’s chief of staff said their arrival does not appear to have been organized by another state's government, as we saw earlier this year in places like Martha’s Vineyard.
The first emergency shelter was set up Dec. 6 to accommodate about 150 people who arrived via bus. The migrants are from South and Central America; some of them confirmed they are from Venezuela.
Many of the migrants arrived at Union Station and made their way to the Denver Rescue Mission before being directed to the emergency shelter.
"We all need each other's help to navigate life. And in a city, when you're there for the first time, that person will take as much help as we can give them, and we're going to try to give them that help,” Stephen Hinkel, the public relations manager at Denver Rescue Mission, told Rocky Mountain PBS.
The city is accepting physical donations for the migrants Mondays from 5-8 p.m. and Thursdays from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. at Temple Emanuel at 51 Grape Street in Denver.
The city said these items are most needed:
- New or very gently used men’s winter clothes (small and medium sizes only) - especially jackets, hats, gloves, and sweatpants
- News socks, underwear/boxers (primarily small and medium men’s), and sports bras
- Backpacks and/or medium size duffel bags
- Belts so that individuals can use L and XL men’s pants
- Men’s work boots
- Sandals (for shower)
If people would rather donate money, the city is asking that donations be sent to the following organizations:
- Denver Community Church
- Americans Friends Service Committee
- Colorado Hosting Asylum Network
- First Unitarian Society of Denver
Medical and non-medical volunteers are also needed. You can sign up to volunteer here.
"When we started seeing this influx last week, when residents started sending us messages, they weren't asking why these people were here and why aren't we stopping them," Hancock said. "They were asking How can we help? So that meant a lot to us ... That's the hallmark of a welcoming city and I've never been prouder of our city."
Organizations interested in helping the migrants should contact the Emergency Operations Center at email@example.com.
If your go-to rec center is now being used as an emergency shelter, the city said members can visit any other rec center and the fee will be waived.
Kyle Cooke is the digital media manager at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.