A contract that would have secured the operational provider for a micro-community set for the Overland neighborhood was delayed by council members because of community concerns about the site. But other provider contracts did pass. Let’s start with those.
Multi-million dollar contracts with the Salvation Army, Bayaud Enterprises, The Gathering Place and the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless were passed during Wednesday’s Safety, Housing, Education & Homelessness Committee.
The contracts with Bayaud Enterprises and The Gathering Place will allow the nonprofits to manage and provide wraparound services to micro-communities set for 12033 E. 38th Ave. and 1375 N. Elati St., respectively. Together, both sites will house about 98 residents in either pallet shelters or manufactured sleeping units. The combined total for both contracts is about $3.76 million dollars.
The Coalition contract for $850,736 will allow the organization to provide mental, physical, and behavioral health support to all the micro-communities and non-congregate shelters. The $10 million dollar contract with the Salvation Army allows the group to manage and oversee the emergency shelter inside the Double Tree Hotel at 4040 Quebec Street.
The sole contract that didn’t pass Wednesday was for the micro-community site at 2301 S. Santa Fe Dr. The proposed $3.8 million dollar agreement would have made The Colorado Village Collaborative the site operator.
Since the site was proposed, Overland residents have voiced their opposition because of safety concerns and the number of residents expected to be housed on the site.
Initially, the mayor’s office planned to house 150 residents on the empty lot owned by the Colorado Department of Transportation. But the plot is sandwiched between small single-family homes in an area with about only 111 homes. Overland residents said it was unfair to put that many people on the site, considering it outnumbered the existing neighbors.
The number of people slated for the site was reduced to 120, but neighbors still expressed concerns regarding safety, overcrowding and feelings of disenfranchisement.
During the public comment section of City Council’s Monday night meeting, several residents said the site was once occupied by an unsanctioned encampment which they believe led to an increase in theft in the area. The experience with the encampment ultimately left a sour taste.
Residents are asking for another reduction in the number of people slated for the site and they are seeking a Good Neighbor agreement with CVC.
During the Safety committee, Cole Chandler, Mayor Mike Johnston’s senior advisor on homelessness resolution, said in response to concerns, the city will open the site up to 60 residents this year. Next year, the city will add more residents to the area in phases, while continuing to engage with Councilmember Flor Alvidrez, who represents the area, and residents, along with creating that Good Neighbor Agreement.
Councilmember Amanda Sawyer said she appreciated the city’s move to start off the site with 60 residents but said she was “not comfortable” with the idea of the move being temporary. She asked Chandler if the mayor’s office would commit to reducing the site to 60 residents permanently and he said no.
During the committee meeting, Alvidrez continued to express her concern about the site.
She said the reason why the large site is available for use is because the area is “underserved.” She added that a 120-person community wouldn’t be proposed in a more affluent neighborhood because of the space. Alvidrez also implied that affluent residents’ complaints would also be listened to.
“When I see other microsites get canceled and canceled and all I’m asking for is a little bit of compromise…it’s a slap in the face to the residents of Overland. That their voices don’t matter and that they can’t even get a compromise,” Alvidrez said. “60 units just for the rest of this year is kind of a joke… I don’t feel like that’s a really strong commitment. I would like to see more listening to the community and I think being willing to compromise is important when on other sites, they’ve been completely nixed off the list.”
Alvidrez is referring to the three locations that have been eliminated from the list of proposed micro-community sites; 1380 Birch St., 5500 Yale Ave. and 1151 Bannock St. The city said all three of the sites were canceled because of logistical and operational challenges making the sites economically unviable.
In letters to each of those communities, the city also mentions that their feedback was taken into consideration for the cancellation of the sites. However, Jose Salas, the deputy director of communications for Johnston, clarified that the particular feedback the city listened repeated the operational challenges the city discovered.
“The reality is that community feedback didn’t really push these sites to be canceled. It’s really the operational challenges or financial viability…Now, the community did bring up some of those same concerns,” Salas said. “We want to listen to the community concerns. We don’t want to just show up but at the same time we do have a certain criteria that we are basing potential micro-community sites on.”
Sawyer requested the contract be delayed until the city could further work on an agreement with residents. The rest of the committee agreed to the delay and the contract will go before the committee again on Nov. 29.
Salas said in the interim, the city will continue working with residents regarding the site on Santa Fe and they are looking forward to the meeting on the 29th.