Hancock administration lays down $6.9 million to reimagine how Denver’s homeless shelters run

It’s the first chunk of money from a fund the mayor announced during his reelection campaign in April.

Outside the Denver Rescue Mission, April 12, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Outside the Denver Rescue Mission, April 12, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Donna Bryson. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

UPDATE: On Dec. 23 Denver City Council unanimously approved the shelter improvement contracts.


Denver City Council members who got a briefing on the Hancock administration’s re-imagining of homelessness services liked what they heard well enough to advance more than $5 million in contracts Wednesday.

That money will combine with $1.3 million in other funds to pay for more storage lockers and showers, improve access for people with disabilities and take other steps to transform shelters across the city.

“This is a really powerful package,” Councilwoman Robin Kniech said after housing department chief Britta Fisher and her aides outlined plans during a meeting of the homelessness committee.

Fisher called the proposal part of a “vision for 24-7-access shelter, more residential shelter … than overnight.”

Kniech and her colleagues approved for full council consideration:

  • a $528,405 contract with Volunteers of America to provide 24-hour, long-stay shelter and services for older women and veterans who are women. The new shelter will be housed at the Bill Daniels Veterans Services Center that Volunteers of America already runs at 1247 Santa Fe Drive.
  • two contracts with Denver Rescue Mission totaling $2.3 million that will allow the nonprofit to expand health and other services during the day, install an elevator, and make additional renovations at its 1130 Park Ave. West facility. Denver Rescue Mission will use some of the money to expand its Next Step program in which participants have 24-hour access to beds, lockers, a community room and laundry room as they work with case managers on plans for moving to permanent housing. Next Step served 743 men this year and Denver Rescue Mission hopes to serve more than 1,100 in the program next year.
  • an $840,682 contract with Urban Peak, which supports people experiencing homelessness between the ages 15 and 24, a group seen as poorly served by traditional shelters. Among other things, the money will allow Urban Peak to expand daily hours from three to 10 at its drop-in center at 2100 Stout St.
  • a $1.5 million addition to a contract with the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless for bridge housing, often a hotel room where, for example, a family awaiting an apartment can stay until funds for permanent housing are available.

The full City Council unanimously approved each of the measures on Dec. 23.

In addition, six contracts worth amounts too small for City Council approval, would expand services at shelters run by the Salvation Army and St. Francis Center and allow the nonprofit Family Promise to provide bridge housing.

In all, the city proposes to spend $6.9 million on homelessness programs. It’s the first batch disbursed from a pot of $15.7 million that Mayor Michael Hancock announced in April.

All the contracts are for a year, with the possibility of new contracts in 2021 and 2022, housing director Fisher said. She said that in the long term, many shelters now open only at night would be transformed into “residential shelters.”

The $15.7 million, to be spent over the next three years, includes $11.2 million from the city, $1 million from the Anschutz Foundation and $1.5 million from the Colorado Health Foundation. The Downtown Denver Partnership led a drive that resulted in a total contribution of $1 million from the Associated General Contractors of Colorado, the Visit Denver tourism association, Together Denver, JP Morgan Chase and others.

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