DENVER — The Department of Housing Stability (HOST) with the City of Denver has released a draft of its five-year plan to address housing and homelessness in the area. The department said in a press release the goal is to support those residents who are unhoused or facing housing instability.
The plan establishes 14 goals that the department says are measurable and hope to advance equity, creating more housing opportunity and stability—which includes giving residents a choice in when and under what circumstances they move or remain in their homes and neighborhoods, reduce homelessness, and provide efficient support to Denver residents.
Here are the highlights the city lists of what the 152-page plan hopes to accomplish:
- Creates and preserves 7,000 homes
- Preserves 950 income-restricted rentals
- Measurably ends veteran homelessness
- Reduces unsheltered homelessness by 50%
- Increases the number of people who exit shelter into housing from 30% to 40%, and families from 25% to 50%
- Reduces the average length of time residents experience homelessness to 90 days
- Reduces eviction filings by 25%
- Increases households served in rehousing and supportive housing programs from 1,800 to 3,000
- Helps address gentrification with policies that prioritize affordable housing for residents at risk of or who have been involuntarily displaced
- Increases homeownership among low- and moderate-income households, with a focus on households that are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC)
- Reduces contract and procurement times.
The department says it's spent the last year gathering public input from thousands of residents, stakeholders and partners to create this plan.
“We are going to continue to deploy every tool available, with a goal of lifting thousands of people out of homelessness over the next two years, including those who are living on our streets in the most unsafe and unhealthy of conditions,” said Mayor Michael Hancock.
Hancock has often used the phrase "unhealthy conditions" or something similar when referring to encampments around the city made up of those experiencing homelessness. He has come out strongly against these camps and created an enforcement team earlier this summer made up of civilians to help with sweeps. The city is supposed to give a notice before clearing the camps, but an advocacy group for people experiencing homelessness said that's not happening.
Denver Homeless Out Loud recently published a report about what happens to people caught up in those sweeps. DHOL reported many people often say they were not notified of an upcoming sweep.
The report also found 70% of respondents whose encampments the city cleared said they only moved a block or two from the original location, and would often return there later.
[Related: New study shows the impact of encampment sweeps on Denver's unhoused population]
“This has to do with people’s access to services or jobs,” Benjamin Dunning with DHOL explained. He added that it's hard for unhoused people to transport their possessions for long distances.
When it comes to this new five-year plan from the city, Dunning said DHOL was invited late to this conversation and has yet to give the long plan a thorough read.
However, the head of organization has had a chance to read more of the report. Terese Howard questions some of these goals.
"While HOST names one of their goals as to ensure ‘Residents have the choice in when and under what circumstances they move or remain in their homes and neighborhoods’ at the very same time they are sweeping people who are unhoused living at encampments every week, giving people no choice to remain," said Howard.
HOST is encouraging everyone to read the draft and fill out its survey which will be open through Friday, September 3. That survey can be found here in English and aquí en Español.
The plan will also be presented at the following two virtual community meetings, with interpretation to be provided:
- Thursday, Aug. 19, at 10 a.m., at https://denvergov-org.zoom.us/j/89571652075
- Tuesday, Aug. 24, at 5:30 p.m., at https://denvergov-org.zoom.us/j/89270311692
Following the public feedback HOST will make its final recommendation to city council for approval in November. The plan is then expected to be adopted in 2022.
Amanda Horvath is a multimedia producer with Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach her at email@example.com.