Denver will lease the Mullen Home to shelter migrant families in the West Highland neighborhood

The deal includes a land-swap involving a ballpark near the West Harvard Gulch Trail.
4 min. read
City Council member Amanda Sandoval speaks with police as she attempts to count the number of people – and children – staying in an encampment of migrants near Zuni Street and Speer Boulevard. Nov. 15, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Approximately 75 apartment units in a former assisted living facility in the West Highland neighborhood will become available to migrant families, after City Council unanimously approved an agreement Monday with the Archdiocese of Denver to use the space for shelter. Jordan Fuja, Press Secretary for the Mayor's Office, said families will move into the building later this week.

The plan has been in the works for nearly a year; the Archdiocese first announced in January that it was working with the city to potentially use the former Mullen Home for shelter. The lease will run through the end of 2024.

Fuja said the city will prioritize families who have timed out of migrant shelters and have not yet found permanent units. These families will be able to stay for up to three months. The city is still figuring out how much rent will cost.

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"We know that the migrant families arriving in Denver work tirelessly from the moment they arrive to find jobs and housing, and this new partnership will provide the important temporary support they need to be successful here," said Mayor Mike Johnston in a statement Monday. "I am deeply grateful to the Archdiocese of Denver for their partnership and look forward to working together to support our new neighbors."

The apartments come as Denver, along with many other cities across the U.S., is facing a growing migration crisis.

Since the crisis first began in mid-December of 2022, Denver has spent more than $35 million serving more than 31,000 migrants coming through Denver. Earlier this month, the city hired more than 200 people to staff migrant shelters.

While many have moved on to other cities, thousands of others have decided to stay in Denver. According to recent data from the city, approximately 3,100 new migrant students have enrolled in Denver Public Schools.

While the city has offered shelter to migrants arriving in Denver, some families have wound up on the streets after reaching the shelter time limit or getting kicked out. In mid-November, Councilmember Amanda Sandoval's office counted 138 people camping on the streets, including 38 children. Sandoval helped gather $330,000 from different City Council offices to support migrant families. The Mullen Home is located in District 1, which she represents.

"As the migrant crisis intensified, thoughts of utilizing the site for the new families arriving in Denver became necessary and vital," Sandoval said in a statement Monday. "I believe this site will not only be a welcoming transitional home but also a safe space. I am deeply moved by my community and the work so many are doing to support the newcomers in our neighborhood."

As part of the agreement, the city and the Archdiocese will swap parcels of land elsewhere in the city.

The city will cover utilities, maintenance and repairs at the cost of $1.5 million. As part of the deal, the city and the Archdiocese will exchange parcels of land they already lease from one another, with the difference in value covering the city's rent for the Mullen Home. The lease will run through the end of April.

Under the deal, the city will give the Archdiocese 3536 Kalamath Street and 1120 W. 36th Avenue, which the Archdiocese has leased from the city for a parking lot near Lady of Guadalupe Church since the 1990s. In exchange, the Archdiocese will give the city 2900 W. Harvard Avenue, which Denver has leased since the 1990s to use as a ballpark near West Harvard Gulch Trail.

"While land exchanges are not common, they do occur from time to time," Fuja said about the agreement. "These are properties that made sense to exchange given the historical uses of the properties by the Archdiocese and the city, Denver's current need for space for migrant families, and the city's desire to own rather than lease our ballpark."

Long-term, the Archdiocese plans to ultimately use the building for senior housing.

The Catholic organization Little Sisters of the Poor ran the home at 3629 W. 29th Avenue for more than 105 years. In 2022 the nonprofit closed the site and deeded the property to the Archdiocese of Denver. At the time, Little Sisters of the Poor closed a number of homes across the country to focus resources at other properties.

"Since its inception, the Mullen Home property was intended to help people in need," said Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila in a statement Monday. "And although plans to restore and reinvigorate the property for senior housing are being developed and scheduled to begin within the next two years, the immediate, desperate, short-term needs of migrants in Denver require us to act now out of love for Jesus Christ. It is my hope that Mullen Home can provide safety and respite for migrants who have risked much to come to our great country in search of a better life."

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