DENVER — Residents of Denver’s Aloft hotel, which was converted to a temporary shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic, testified before Denver City Council Monday night, urging the city to offer them more help before they have to move out of the hotel at the end of the month.
Residents like John Waldo Paul McClaugherty who said they haven’t been getting much help finding a new place to go.
“We’re going to move out … but they keep telling us they’re going to get us vouchers,” McClaugherty said.
Denver’s Department of Housing Stability said case workers have found solutions for the majority of the 120 or so residents who lived in the hotel. A spokesman said they were working to find options for the remaining 19.
“We’ve been using it as a protective action hotel… which means temporary shelter… providing a safe place for people who are at particularly high risk for COVID or complications from COVID,” said Angie Nelson, deputy director of HOST. “It was essential to our city’s COVID response.”
But as federal pandemic relief funding ends and the pandemic winds down, the city will close the hotel to residents on April 30, giving the city three months to do restoration work so the property can operate like a hotel once again. In the several years the hotel has operated as a temporary shelter, Denver has spend about $16 million to rent the hotel’s 140 rooms. The city provides security for the property and pays for three meals a day for each resident in the hotel.
“What these protective action hotels helped us learn is the benefit of non-congregate shelter in our community,” Nelson said. “A place that looks more like home. You have some privacy. You have a bit more autonomy. You get to choose when you turn on and off your light switch .. your heat and your air. While this isn’t housing…it looks a lot like it… and it helps people to have that sense of stability to give them a platform to move on into that stable housing.”
For McClaugherty, the hotel was welcome relief from a much larger shelter.
“I’ve got some health issues and other deals… and I don’t particularly like being cramped in there like rats,” he said. “These are nice…they’re four-star lofts. It’s a nice place it was nice to have a little privacy and things that work.”
McClaugherty is in his mid-60s. He said his income is so limited, it wouldn’t allow him to rent an apartment at market-rate in Denver.
He said he has a housing solution booked for July, but is hoping to move his move in day up.
“I got a little depressed about it and stuff ..and I started getting worried but I know it’ll work out… it’ll work out,” he said.
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