Denver needs at least 30,000 affordable apartments to solve the homeless crisis, eliminate tent camps, and restore the atmosphere that characterizes downtown. If all goes according to plan over the next five years, the city plans to add between 5,000 and 6,000 of her units.
The large gap was a key point this week when Denver business owners, increasingly frustrated with downtown conditions, discussed their concerns with organizations that help the homeless find housing and shelter.
The Colorado Chamber of Commerce’s agenda was “getting worse,” and there was no discussion from groups working to resolve the issue. The Colorado Homeless Coalition and the state’s Homeless Initiative office are offering more housing and services than ever before, but they are unable to keep up with demand.
According to National Supportive Housing Corporation research, Colorado needs about 14,600 supportive housing, which includes not just rent assistance, but mental health, addiction, and medical care. Today, the Coalition for the Homeless owns approximately 1,500 units of assisted housing in Denver. This is the best way to eliminate the need for tent his camps and city-sanctioned camps to accommodate people who are chronically homeless and often require medical attention to maintain housing. is considered a solution to
While business owners support long-term housing solutions, they also want immediate help, said Beth Moiski, senior vice president of the Downtown Denver Partnership, which advocates for the business community. She regularly hears from her business owners that customers feel unsafe because of the large number of people on the streets, including one who has a mental illness and is talking to himself as he walks by. .
“I get calls from property managers and property owners saying, ‘There’s an encampment across the alley or street. What are you going to do about it?'” she said.
Moyski said she was worried not only about business, but also about people being made homeless or harmed by others living on the streets. “Many of these people are victims of criminals and other illegal activities that bring drugs into the environment,” she said. increase.”
The Downtown Denver Partnership also wants a higher level of staffing for the city’s Support Team Assisted Response Response (STAR) program, which replaces the police response by dispatching mental health trained workers.
But homeless advocates say Colorado needs big solutions.
“We have the same goal: we want to see people off the streets,” said John Parvenski, president of the Colorado Homeless Coalition. “I would like to provide them with a safe place, preferably in my own home. But the approach is not to criminalize the homeless. It’s about doing it at scale and creating and building solutions that are known to work.”
The number of homeless people is constantly changing, as the annual homelessness figures show, showing that the majority of people sleeping in shelters and tents became homeless during the previous year. The latest tally found that one night in January he found 6,888 homeless in seven county metropolitan areas. According to organizers, this means an estimated 31,000 people are homeless for the year.
In addition, the same night’s survey found that about 30 people who were homeless were hospitalized. You live with your family or sleep on a friend’s sofa.
Some asked for numbers in a room full of business professionals in suits.
David Zucker, CEO of Zocalo Community Development, a real estate developer that specializes in affordable housing, has tried to do a rough math calculation.
It costs about $300,000 each to build the 14,600 supported housing units needed in Colorado, so about $4.4 billion. Operating the unit costs about $300 million annually, including mental health and medical services.
“It’s a good amount,” he said.
But the investment could pay off in the long run, Zucker said, noting that health care, prisons and other services cost taxpayers thousands of dollars a year for each homeless person. . Eliminating Encampments can boost business and increase city and state sales and tax revenues.
Christine Toombs, director of the state’s Homeless Initiatives Office, touted a new tax credit for businesses investing in solving the homeless problem. Starting in 2023, businesses that donate to build affordable housing or help the homeless will receive a tax credit of 25% of his total donation in cities and 30% in rural areas.
Moyski of the Downtown Denver Partnership said he agrees long-term investments pay off. Three years later, the city’s nationally recognized social impact bond program, which takes outreach workers to the streets to find and house the most frequent users of emergency rooms and prisons, We kept 77% in their homes and off the streets.
But while Colorado awaits results, business owners and property owners need more, she said.
“There is a more unified presence, and when you meet outreach workers, they feel safer,” says Moyski. “The difficulty is the gap in between.”
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