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West Colfax motel enters into first 'master lease' with Jeffco to house families experiencing homelessness

When an interior designer's plan to create a boutique motel fell through, the motel became a a place for families experiencing homelessness.

LAKEWOOD, Colo. — Some parts of life can be planned, but Lauren Coleman had little preparation for this chapter of life. 

"I'm due next week," said Coleman, who was more than nine months pregnant when she did an interview with 9NEWS. 

The baby wasn't planned, and neither was the business model for the White Swan Motel. 

The interior designer had investors lined up to fund her redevelopment of the West Colfax motel in Lakewood. She planned to turn it into a luxury boutique motel with shoppable artisan things made by local businesses in each room. 

"And I lost all of that," said Coleman. "It was a Friday the 13th, the beginning of the pandemic, in March of 2020, and it basically was like look we can’t take a risk on you." 

When that dream was put on hold, Coleman found a new one. 

“In very basic terms I’m a landlord to the county," she said about her new plan. 

Coleman still plans to redevelop the motel years down the road, but she currently entering into a master lease with Jefferson County Human Services to house families with kids experiencing homelessness. The county pays the rent. 

“The county was using these motels to place people already," said Coleman. "That relationship was established, but formalizing it and saying no you are going to use all the rooms every month for this exact purpose and here’s the standards I’m going to uphold, that has not been done before.”

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Jefferson Co. Human Services says by having this master lease with Coleman, they are able to pay significantly less per room. 

They call what's happening a pilot program, one that fell into their lap when Coleman reached out. 

"We believe this could work, but are going into it saying let’s see if this works," said Lynnae Flora, the deputy director of Human Services in Jefferson County. 

They are currently paying for the program with federal funds and money from the Community First Foundation, but they would need more funding to make it permanent. 

Part of the master lease means Coleman has to keep the motel up to certain standards, which she said were not being met when she bought the place this past August. 

Credit: KUSA
Coleman bought a maternity jumpsuit to start renovations on the motel.

"I mean we were in full hazmat suits, there were needles on the floor, the carpet was I don’t know, 50 or 10-years-old, but it was awful what was on there," said Coleman. "The mattresses had blood stains on them. There [were] all sorts of things on the walls." 

Now, the rooms aren't fancy, but they are clean and have plumbing and electricity that works. 

The county hopes placing multiple families in one motel makes outreach more efficient and resources more accessible. 

Flora said they have data that families with children placed in close locations "benefit from the social capital of having each other as a resource on site."

Coleman still has plans to follow her dream of redeveloping the motel, but it now includes a new dream. 

“I’m looking at buying another piece of land, truly building out a shelter type of model and having it be funded by the boutique motel," she said. "You can be for profit and also for purpose, and I like that expression a lot." 

Coleman had her baby on Dec. 14 and she packed her work computer in her hospital bag to make sure things at the motel keep running smoothly.

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