Denver is no longer using city rec centers to shelter migrants

As arrival numbers drop, the city has shifted to working with its partners.
2 min. read
People who’ve arrived from the U.S. southern border hang out on bedrolls on the floor of the Rude rec center, the city’s second emergency shelter. People were originally given cots, but a city spokesperson said they switched to mats to squeeze more people in when they neared capacity in late December. Jan. 6, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Migrants and staff have vacated the second of two rec centers Denver was using as emergency shelters for migrants arriving from the border, moving instead to partner shelters throughout the city. While the other location, Rude Rec Center, reopened as a rec center to the public Jan. 30, the city does not yet have a timeline for reopening the second shelter.

A third rec center is being used as a welcome area for migrants, but it is not a place where they stay overnight.

The shift in shelters comes as fewer and fewer migrants arrive in Denver. While daily arrival numbers reached over 200 on some days in December and early January, the numbers have slowed recently, down to the 10s and even zero some days. Six people arrived overnight.

Still, Denver is servicing almost 1,000 people in partner shelters, which are still funded and staffed by the city but no longer based out of rec centers. The city said it's still in talks with the Archdiocese of Denver about the possibility of using the Mullen Home, which used to be an elder care center, but no agreement is in place yet.

Like with the Rude Rec Center, which took a few weeks to re-open, the city has said it's working on cleaning and providing maintenance at the second shelter before re-opening at a future date.

If arrival numbers were to rise again, it's possible things could change.

"The city is working to ensure it's ready should we get a resurgence in migrants coming into the metro area," said city spokesperson Cyndi Karvaski.

"This includes potentially recommissioning congregate shelters at city-owned facilities if necessary, but our intent is to maintain city facilities for their intended uses going forward while utilizing other sheltering options should the need arise."

Since Dec. 9, almost 4,400 migrants and asylum seekers have arrived in Denver, though some have moved on to other cities or moved out of Denver and nonprofit partners' care.

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