DENVER — Due to the "immense" strain on city resources, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock issued an emergency declaration Thursday to help free up additional resources to help deal with an influx of migrants from the southern border.
"Denver has been seeing groups of migrants come to our city for the past several months now, which we have been prepared for and expecting," Hancock said. "It's been only recently that they've been arriving at the volume and without any type of advance notice."
About 247 people have arrived in Denver since Monday, Hancock said. The city and its partners are currently housing 411 individuals, according to the mayor. Most of them are at emergency shelters located at two Denver rec centers.
"We've seen, from the numbers I look at on a daily basis, anywhere from 40 to 170 people coming at one time, overnight," Hancock said. "That's part of the reason I'm issuing this declaration. I don't know when this will stop. We gotta protect ourselves and make sure we have the resources."
The city opened its first emergency shelter for migrants on Dec. 6, but it reached its capacity of 275 people, and as a result, a second shelter opened this week. It can house about 100 people.
An intake center at a third rec center will serve as a reception center for newly arriving migrants, where people can access emergency shelter and/or receive reunification assistance with family or friends.
"Up to this point people have been coming here and making their way to various homeless shelters, which has put an additional burden on that system," Hancock said. "So let me be frank, this influx of migrants, the unanticipated nature of their arrival, and our current space and staffing challenges have put an immense strain on city resources to the level that they're on the verge of reaching the breaking point."
Hancock said he didn't want to see a humanitarian crisis of unhoused migrants and issued the emergency declaration as a result.
"This declaration will give us another tool in our toolbox to free up resources and streamline processes including funding and sheltering options to support these folks while they're here," he said.
So far the city has spent about $800,000 since the activation of the emergency operations center. That includes costs for things like food, clothing, cots and security for the shelters.
Hancock said the biggest challenges are space and staffing and made a plea for organizations to step up, specifically those who might have space to house migrants. They're also asking for volunteers to work at those shelters.
Anyone who has space or would like to volunteer should visit Denvergov.org/OEM.
The city said it recognizes that using the rec centers as shelters may be inconvenient to residents who use them. For this reason, affected members can visit any recreation center and the upcharge fee will be waived. Recreation center members can contact Recreation.Administration@denvergov.org with questions.
"This is not what our recreation centers are built for and we're going to try and free them up as quickly as possible," Hancock said. "But please be patient with us as we try to deal with this sudden surge of migrants and asylum seekers."
The city said the migrants that arrived Dec. 6 were dropped off at Union Station in downtown Denver, and made their way to the Denver Rescue Mission. A spokesman for the Denver Rescue Mission confirmed this information.
According to the mayor's office, the migrants chose to come to Denver and were not sent here by any government entity.
The city of Denver said more than 900 migrants have arrived in Denver over the past several months, including more than 600 since Dec. 2.
The city has established a drop-off location for physical donations at Iglesia Ciudad de Dios located at 5255 W Warren Ave. in Denver. Donations are being accepted on Tuesdays and Wednesdays between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.
The city released a list of needed items, and noted that the list could change based on supply and demand:
- Coats (men’s S and M, women’s M)
- Pants (waist 30-33)
- Underwear (new)
- Winter apparel (hats, gloves, scarves, boots)
- Children’s clothing for ages 10 and younger
Overall, the city said there is a high demand for new clothing for adults sizes small through large, with a special need for medium-sized clothing and winter weather clothing.
The city continues to call on local faith-based groups, nonprofit organizations, and private sector partners to reach out if they can support its efforts. Entities interested in participating can contact the Emergency Operations Center at email@example.com.
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