AURORA, Colo. — In recent weeks, Aurora leaders have looked both in and out of state - cities like San Antonio, Houston and Colorado Springs - to better understand how they address homelessness.
At an Oct. 17 study session, council discussed their findings between the city, and also touched on a resolution that is expected to be considered at a meeting on Oct. 24.
The resolution, sponsored by Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman, includes the plan to build a campus to help address homelessness.
"I just feel that looking at it, it's the most effective thing," Coffman said at the study session.
According to city documents, the site would include a navigation center, 7-day emergency housing and transitional housing. A long list of potential services include case management, mental health services, workforce development and more.
According to a city spokesperson, they have identified a piece of city-owned property near the Aurora Animal Shelter off of Chambers Road and 32nd Avenue. The parcel would be 5-7 acres. The city already owns the property and has for some time, the spokesperson added.
The projected cost to build the campus is between $50 - $70 million, though there are no projected costs for operations yet.
The city is looking to leverage funds through the American Rescue Plan Act, with other funding opportunities also being explored.
Council member Juan Marcano argued Monday that the campus is too costly.
"We're discussing a campus which is an exceptionally expensive endeavor," he said in part. "I think we can do a lot better than a campus here."
Marcano also expressed concern over communicating the impact such a resolution could have.
"And then a public communication strategy is absolutely critical because we need to be able to demonstrate to folks that whatever we invest our resources in is actually having an effect. Demonstrably, as we learned in Houston, that was a huge part of their success, was actually being able to physically show change in the community," he said.
Marcano has supported a permanent-housing-first approach in the past.
Council member Dustin Zvonek argued Monday that approach isn't the right move for this particular plan, and supports Coffman's resolution.
"I support this resolution going forward. I know that there are going to be things that we have to work out, but I think that having permanent supportive housing for all is not the right solution," he said. "And I think having some conditions and incentives baked into whatever this looks like is important."
Aurora’s 2021 Point-in-Time (PIT) Report shows a steady increase in people experiencing homelessness in the city. The report indicates close to 600 individuals sought emergency shelter due to experiencing homelessness in Aurora, with only 150 emergency shelter beds available in the city.
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