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Denver wants to create team to help move people living on streets into shelters

The $6.4 million contract proposal is part of the mayor's plan to house 1,000 unsheltered people by the end of the year.

DENVER — Denver's new mayor has a goal: house 1,000 unsheltered people and permanently close encampments by the end of the year. 

As a part of that plan, the city's Department of Housing Stability (HOST) wants to create Encampment Resolution Outreach Teams to help people living in encampments move to a place indoors. Under the $6.4 million contract proposal Colorado Coalition for the Homeless would do this work to address homelessness in Denver. 

Colorado Coalition for the Homeless would target specific encampments prior to a closure. Teams will connect with the unhoused and help them move to non-congregate, shelter alternatives, and/or housing based on their choice and available options. Some alternatives include pallet shelters and tiny homes.

The goal is to move someone within four weeks of initial engagement, and maintain closure of an encampment site.

The coalition already connects with the unhoused but this contract proposal would expand their work. Teams would go from encampment to encampment to help identify immediate needs and long-term goals while Democratic Mayor Mike Johnston's office and HOST set up alternatives to shelter spaces. 

"Because there are new resources coming available to people we will be able to give people more options," said Cathy Alderman, chief communications and public policy officer for Colorado Coalition for the Homeless. 

Johnston and his team are still working to build these micro-communities of tiny homes and pallet shelters. Those options may not be available if the coalition starts work in a few weeks. Right now, the contract is scheduled to start in early October.

"I don't see us moving a huge swath of people in that first week of October but the outreach can start and we can start building those relationships," Alderman said. 

Once there's space for people to go to this outreach team will also provide transportation. Alderman said their job is just one piece of the mayor's bigger plan.

"We don't expect this contract alone is going to accomplish the mayor has set out but we certainly think it is a step in the right direction," she said.

In addition to connecting people to an option indoors, the coalition would provide behavioral health, substance misuse and harm reduction services. Under the contract the coalition has agreed to move over 1,000 unsheltered households through 2026.

A committee approved the contract proposal on Wednesday, and it now heads to a vote by the full council.


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