Denver City Council extends National Western shelter contract through mid-July

The National Western Complex Hall of Education opened April 9 as a shelter for men experiencing homelessness.
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The National Western Center is being set up to become a shelter for unhoused men. April 8, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Update, June 15, 2020: The Denver City Council unanimously approved the contract extension.

Some members also expressed concerns over eventually transitioning people experiencing homelessness out of the shelter. Councilwoman Debbie Ortega warned the city's housing department about putting hundreds of people "out on the street" while Councilwoman Robin Kniech said the economic fallout from COVID-19 could easily force the city to expand services, rather than shrink them.

Mayor Michael Hancock's administration will ask the Denver City Council to extend at least through mid-July the use of National Western Complex as a shelter for men experiencing homelessness.

The National Western Complex Hall of Education opened April 9 as a shelter where men experiencing homelessness would be not be as crowded as they were in older shelters. Crowded conditions make it difficult to stop the spread of COVID-19. The shelter has consistently seen more than the 600 men for which is was initially set up.

Current leasing and other contracts needed to use part of the complex as a shelter expire at the end of June. Erika Martinez, a spokesperson for the city, said council would be approached to extend the contracts to July 15. She said contracts that cover the Coliseum, where women and transgender individuals experiencing homelessness have been sheltered since April 20, already extend beyond July. The Coliseum has generally accommodated fewer than the 300 people for which it was set up.

Martinez said initial steps to bring the National Western extension proposal before council were being made this week. She could not say what date it might be voted on by the full council.

The National Western and Coliseum shelters have offered coronavirus testing and and other support services.

Asked if further extensions were being considered at either the Coliseum or National Westerm, Martinez said in an email: "We are exploring all options to meet ongoing sheltering needs as we approach key contract dates for auxiliary shelter."

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