The Crossroads Shelter now does what Salvation Army Denver Metro Coordinator Richard Pease said the agency always wanted it to do: provide 24/7 shelter for men experiencing homelessness.
It just took unfortunate circumstances to get it there.
The shelter, which is owned by the city but operated by Salvation Army, transitioned from strictly “emergency,” or overnight, service provider to offering 24-hour services last May, as the pandemic ramped up and service providers in Denver were stretched especially thin. Now, residents can stay at the shelter instead of leaving in the morning.
On Monday, Denver City Council approved a $10.7 million contract to help the shelter continue its 24-hour services for three years. The contract was retroactive, so it started Jan. 1 and will run through Dec. 21, 2023. Denver Department of Housing Stability spokesperson Derek Woodbury said over email Crossroads is one of 10 shelters the city has helped expand this year to provide 24/7 services.
Pease said the money represents about 99 percent of the shelter’s funding over the next three years.
That money pays for things like food and case managers who help connect men with permanent housing, health care and other social services. It will allow the shelter to expand from a capacity of 250 beds to 300 beds. When the shelter operated strictly overnight, it served roughly 600 men.
Since September, when Pease said the shelter was fully staffed with case managers, more than 70 men have been placed into permanent housing. The shelter has helped another 20 men reunite with families and helped connect more than 50 men with substance use programs.
“To me, that’s the most exciting thing: that in last nine months, that’s over 150 men that in some way we have helped them get out of homelessness and into the appropriate service that they needed so that they can stabilize their lives and live the way that they want to live,” Pease said.
Wiley Brown, 60, said he has noticed the differences at the shelter. He’s from Park Hill and has been homeless since the 1990s, using the shelter here and there when needed.
“Now we got case management,” Brown said. “We don’t have to run back in, (have) our stuff being destroyed and our bed taken and all that stuff. It’s really helpful because now we can go out and come back, come back in. That’s basically what I was looking for someplace.”
Angie Nelson, Deputy Director of Housing Stability and Homelessness Resolution, said the city has recognized the need for more residential-focused and 24-hour shelters for years. The pandemic put those goals into overdrive.
“What really changed was that COVID happened and people needed a safe place to be,” Nelson said. “They needed to stay at home or stay inside. That really brought to the forefront the need for a place to be 24 hours a day.”
The contract approved on Monday was paid for by the city’s general fund and the money generated by the Homelessness Resolution Sales Tax voters passed last year. Nelson said the money raised from the sales tax has allowed the city to expand shelter programs.
“The passage came right at the right time,” Nelson said.
Ricardo Herrera grew up in Elyria-Swansea. He’s been using the shelter on and off for the last eight years, though he’s been there permanently since September. Herrera, 47, said he doesn’t mind using a cot at the moment. He can store his stuff without having to carry everything around, a big plus for him since he has physical disabilities, and he likes having access to all the electrical outlets near his cot.
His goal is to get into permanent housing. His case manager recently helped him submit an application to rent a room at the Argonaut Apartments on Grant Street. He was told it could take anywhere between six months to a year before he knows whether his application is accepted. For now, he said he’s comfortable where he is.
“I am very fortunate to have a place to stay so I don’t have to worry about where I’m gonna sleep tonight,” Herrera said.