Denver has racked up a $ 27 million hotel bill by renting rooms in hotels for the homeless since last spring. And the nonprofit that runs the program is exploring ways to keep it alive even as the pandemic recedes.
As of March 2020, the city donated that money to the Colorado Coalition of the Homeless to rent 810 rooms in eight hotels and staff them. This comes down to about $ 34,000 per room so far.
Participating hotels are not open to other customers.
The current contract with the Coalition – which reported $ 80 million in revenue in 2019, according to its tax forms – runs until June 30. But as vaccinations increase and government pandemic restrictions ease, the program could be extended, according to the head of the nonprofit.
“We probably want to try and keep the Respite Activated Motel available so that we can still provide quarantine for people who are unvaccinated and test positive,” said John Parvensky, CEO of Colorado Coalition for the Homeless. “And probably, until the shelter capacity increases with the new shelters in place, we would like to keep at least two (the other facilities) in operation after June 30. It’s the conversation with the city. ”
Parvensky said the city and the association plan to purchase one or more facilities for long-term use. But the right opportunity did not come, he said.
The city is also discussing possible acquisitions with hoteliers.
“The new US bailout law includes funding to tackle homelessness, including the purchase of motels for non-collective shelters or longer term housing,” Parvensky wrote in an e- mail. “We discussed the possibilities of purchasing one or more motels. However, the prices charged by many homeowners do not match the actual post-pandemic valuation. We will continue to seek reasonable opportunities.
Participating hotels stretch from downtown to highway exits
The city and the Coalition declined to provide a list of the hotels and motels involved, citing a confidentiality agreement with the operators of the facilities.
BusinessDen identified seven of the hotels through documents obtained following a Colorado Open Records Act request.
One hotel is two blocks from the Colorado Convention Center. One second is in Uptown. The rest are usually just off Interstate 25 or Interstate 70.
- • Hotel in altitude, 800 15th St.
- • Hampton Inn, 1845 Sherman Street
- • Comfort Inn, 401 E. 58th Ave.
- • La Quinta hostel, 3500 Avenue du Parc.
- • Quality Inn, 2601 Zuni Street
- • Comfort Inn, 4685 Quebec Street
- • Western Motor Inn, 4757 boul. Vasquez
BusinessDen called each of the seven establishments and left messages with several, but received no comment from any of them.
Parvensky told BusinessDen that the room charge per night was below the market rate, between $ 45 and $ 70 per room.
When the program began, the city expected 75 percent of the costs to be reimbursed by the federal government. He now expects full reimbursement due to a change made by President Joe Biden’s administration.
Some of the 810 rooms have at times been double occupancy, meaning up to 1,100 people have been accommodated on any given night, according to the Coalition.
But more often than not, rooms are single occupancy, meaning that a typical night involves around 800 of the city’s 5,000 homeless. Parvensky said about 1,400 other people are usually accommodated in assembly places.
Homeless people eligible to stay in hotels are those who have tested positive for the virus and those who have factors or conditions that make them considered to be at high risk. This includes being over 65, have lung disease or asthma, heart problems, being immunocompromised, severe obesity, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, liver disease, or pregnancy.
Those who are not eligible can stay in the city’s homeless shelters.
Staffing, hotel concerned about limited scope of program
Cost was a consideration preventing the Coalition from providing more rooms, Parvensky said, but not the main one.
“We have found that it is difficult to maintain the staff to operate this type of program, especially temporarily,” Parvensky said. “The Salvation Army provides meals and night services in some locations and they indicate similar challenges. You can’t necessarily just increase it because it’s hard to find staff.
Workers at the hotels in the program also had early access to the vaccine, according to emails obtained by BusinessDen.
Additionally, Parvensky said, it was difficult to find hotels and motels willing to participate, even though virtually all of their activities were closed.
“They were worried about the stigma of being a COVID hotel,” Parvensky said. “What happens when they convert it back, and there were heavy demands on cleaning, sterilization, other things in terms of returning the rooms. The burden of doing so is something we always anticipate. “
City Councilor Paul Kashmann said the program “has allowed us to do a little better social distancing work within our existing shelters.”
“I don’t think it has done much to address the causes or symptoms of homelessness, but it has protected a whole bunch of people who might otherwise have been out in situations that just aren’t conducive to homelessness. the human mind or the health of the body, ”he said.
Of the 5,000 people estimated to be homeless in Denver at any given time, Parvensky said only nine – 0.18% – would have died from COVID-19.
“This is much less than what was expected at the start of the pandemic,” he said.
Parvensky said some people have been in hotel rooms for nine or ten months, but the program cannot continue at its current level forever.
“The challenge is that once it’s no longer a FEMA funded activity, and you look at the cost of running a motel for a shelter as opposed to a collective shelter, that is, I think. , more expensive to do it that way, although there are better results, ”Parvensky said. “We need to figure out what to do with the closure of these places as we work on relocation strategies to bring people to longer term housing options.”