City inks contract to provide more meals at motel serving families with kids experiencing homelessness
The agreement with Volunteers of America renews the city’s funding for an emergency shelter for families in West Colfax.
The Family Motel in West Colfax will be providing more meals and additional services for families with kids experiencing homelessness after Denver City Council voted on Tuesday to approve a new contract renewing the city’s partnership with the emergency shelter.
Providing more food options has long been a goal for the motel, according to Volunteers of America vice president of program operations Lindi Sinton. The city has worked with VOC to fund the motel since the agency bought it in 1999, Sinton said.
It usually only offered a continental breakfast to folks staying there. But the $3.3 million, three-year contract with Volunteers of America approved on Tuesday is about $350,000 more than previous contracts, Sinton said. The additional funds will allow the agency to provide lunches and dinners.
“We’ve wanted to offer more, (like) a hot dinner meal so they didn’t have to figure out another way to feed their family,” Sinton said.
Chief Housing Officer Britta Fisher said the city wanted to make sure it continued offering services that grew in demand during the pandemic for people experiencing homelessness. That included providing meals.
“The pandemic put a strain on our whole food bank and basic services system,” Fisher said. “We definitely see increased demands from Denver residents for food resources.”
In addition to more meals, the contract pays for 30 rooms for families with children experiencing homelessness and 10 “respite” rooms, which are reserved for people who have been recently released from the hospital and require additional medical care to recover. The motel has 45 rooms; Sinton said the remaining five are reserved for veterans experiencing homelessness, though that’s part of a different program.
Families can stay at the motel for a few days to up to a month, Sinton said. Sinton said new contract will help pay for case management to help families get into permanent housing.
An example of how a family will end up at the Family Motel is through police. A cop may find a family in a car and refer them to Volunteers of America to get them connected to housing, Sinton said.
If there’s no room in the city’s two other family emergency shelters in Denver — Sinton mentioned space can be scarce at Lambuth Family Center and Samaritan House — Sinton said a family can end up at the motel. The motel’s occupancy rate is typically 80 to 90 percent.
The 2020 point in time count found that at least 247 families were unhoused, representing about 820 people total, though Fisher warned this figure is likely an undercount. Lsat year’s point in time survey recored more than 4,100 people experiencing homelessness in Denver. The survey was conducted in one night.
In addition to the Volunteers of America contract, City Council on Tuesday approved a $2.9 million contract with St. Francis Center to provide day shelter services for people experiencing homelessness.
Fisher said the contracts approved Tuesday are part of 49 contracts with 24 agencies the city has inked to fight homelessness.
Correction: The number of contracts the city has is 49, not 39, and the point in time count for people experiencing homelessness has been clarified.