Hancock declares emergency in response to migrant arrivals, calls for help to shelter more

The city has spent more than $800,000 on responding to the migrant arrivals since it activated its Emergency Operations Center.
3 min. read
Someone’s belongings on a cot inside an emergency shelter for people arriving from the southern U.S. border, set up at a Denver rec center. Dec. 13, 2022.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Mayor Michael Hancock declared an emergency Thursday in the city and county in response to the arrival of migrants from the southern U.S. border.

Hundreds of migrants have arrived over the past couple of months. Hancock said their needs are straining the city's resources to "the verge of reaching a breaking point."

Hancock said the emergency declaration will let the city streamline free up resources like funding and shelter options.

"What I don't want to see is a local, humanitarian crisis of unsheltered migrants on our hands because of the lack of resources," Hancock said.

Hancock said Denver has spent more than $800,000 responding to needs of migrants since Dec. 6.

He said the costs include food, clothing, sleeping cots and security. The cost also includes city staff that have been moved to work at the emergency operations center and shelters. A spokesperson for the city said the figure is expected to rise.

"We are taking copious notes and records of every expenditure we make so that we can follow the proper process at the state and federal levels to recoup those dollars," Hancock said.

This week, the city activated a second emergency shelter to house migrants and a third rec center as a welcoming center.

Hancock said the "dike would've been broken" if not for the churches and nonprofits that have taken donations and provided shelter to arriving migrants. Still, he said more aid is needed and called on organizations with available shelter space to partner with the city.

Hancock said he has spoken with Gov. Jared Polis about what state resources can be provided, but he did not offer specifics on what the state government has provided to Denver so far.

"The Governor instructed [the Department of Local Affairs] to open up additional funding for local governments that are in need of temporarily expanding their shelter capacity. Our emergency management team is actively engaged with local municipalities and planning for potential scenarios in which this becomes a statewide event," a spokesperson for Polis office said.

Since Monday, 247 people have arrived in Denver, mostly from El Paso, the mayor said.

A total of 404 people are being sheltered in the city right now. Hancock said the city has been purchasing bus tickets to move people along to other cities where they have confirmed family or friends who can take them in, adding that the cost of busing them is included in the $800,000 figure he shared.

Mimi Scheuermann, chief operating officer of Denver Human Services, said finding relatives for migrants in other cities has not been an issue. But weather has led to canceled bus trips, making it harder to move people out of the city, she added.

"We are having an influx and unable to get them moving alone because of the transportation challenges," Scheuermann said.

Hancock said the city expects more people to arrive and called on Congress to act.

"Get off the politics and really address this crisis that has existed before the pandemic, that existed before this moment and recognize that we've gotta fix this immigration issue," Hancock said. "This is going to continue to happen, continue to overwhelm cities all over this country until Congress works on fixing this situation."

CPR's Bente Birkeland contributed reporting to this article.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with a statement from Gov. Jared Polis office.

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