Urban Peak, a local agency providing services for people experiencing homelessness aged 15 to 24, got $1.6 million from the city on Monday after the Denver City Council approved two contracts to support the agency.
CEO Christina Carlson said the agency’s shelter on Acoma Street — the only one in Denver providing shelter space specifically for minors experiencing homelessness — has pretty much been at capacity since the pandemic started. Based on street outreach from the agency, Carlson said she there has been an uptick in youth experiencing homelessness in the city.
Carlson said the 40-person, 24/7 shelter now serves up to 30 people due to social distancing rules. Before the pandemic, she said there was usually some space for more people, but that’s no longer the case. She noted most other services have been pretty steadily used during the pandemic.
“The bottom line is that there is not enough housing,” Carlson said. “We have an affordable housing crisis, demand is increasing and it takes a long time to build housing stock and the providers and the city is working hard to do it, but building housing is not enough.”
Urban Peaks has a $7.5 million annual budget, so Carlson said the city’s money is a “big chunk” for the agency. Urban Peak gets money from state and federal governments and private donors.
The money will pay for services at the shelter and for housing at the agency’s three apartment buildings, which between them include 66 individual units for young people experiencing homelessness. The agency also place young people in supportive housing.
Its drop-in center on Stout Street is open five days a week and provides things like meals, places to shower, laundry and case management for youth, Carlson said. She added there’s also been an uptick in young people visiting the drop-in center. In 2019, Urban Peak got $840,682 from the city to help its expand hours and $138,328 for improvements at the shelter and drop-in center.
Carlson said the agency serves about 1,000 young people every year. That’s significantly more than the 195 homeless youth counted in 2020’s point in time survey in Denver, a one-night annual estimation of homelessness that’s often an undercount.
Urban Peak’s outreach includes going out in the streets to find and talk to young people about their services, which also include access to crisis intervention and a medical clinic.
Carlson said people of color and LGBTQ youth are overrepresented among young people experiencing homelessness.
Denver’s Chief Housing Officer Britta Fisher said the money from the city will help “solidify” the 24/7 shelter and help young people in the city who are experiencing homelessness.
The money approved Monday includes one contract worth $660,000 that will help pay for shelter operations though December 2021, while another contract worth $900,000 will provide money for Urban Peak’s housing units through December 2023.
Fisher said the funding will come from the sales tax increase raising money for services for people experiencing homelessness. The sales tax hike was passed by voters last November; Fisher said it’s projected to raise $37 million this year.