DENVER — Denver Health is in the business of housing now because some of their patients have been living at their hospital for months at a time, with nowhere else to go. 

In a news release, the hospital said:

"Legally and morally, hospitals cannot discharge patients if they have no safe place to go. So patients who are homeless, frail or live alone, or have unstable housing, can occupy hospital beds for weeks or months – long after their acute medical problem is resolved.

One patient at Denver Health, occupied a bed for more than four years – a hospital record of 1,558 days. Another admitted for a hard-to-treat bacterial infection needed eight weeks of at-home IV antibiotics, but had no home. A third, who had dementia, came to the hospital after being released from the Denver County Jail. His family refused to take him back."

That helped spur a partnership between Denver Health and the Denver Housing Authority to turn a vacant office building at 6th and Broadway, which Denver Health owns, into affordable housing. 

Ismael Guerrero, the housing authority executive director, said along with 96 affordable housing units for seniors and people living with disabilities, there will be 15 units set aside for patients who need to continue their treatment but don't necessarily need to be hospitalized, including physical therapy and ongoing treatments. 

"One of their biggest needs was transitional housing for folks previously homeless, chronic homeless conditions in their past, being discharged from their hospital but didn't have a home to go to," said Guerrero.

It costs the hospital roughly $2,700 a day per patient in a hospital bed. Rent in the new unit would be anywhere from $600 to $700. Guerrero said if the patient can't afford it, the city will step in and help cover the costs. 

In the first half of this year, Denver Health treated more than 100 long-term patients.  Guerrero said they are well aware that 15 studios for patients will not enough to keep up with the demand.

"[This] is a model that can be scaled up, show there is a solution that's feasible," Guerrero said.

There will be no time limit on how long a patient stays in one of these units, and the housing authority will work with patients to find permanent housing. Guerrero said the city of Denver is also working on building more affordable housing units and is working towards 6,000 new units over the next five years. 

The project will cost $28 million and is expected to start in mid to late 2021. 

Until then, some patients may continue to stay at Denver Health. Guerrero said some hospitals also work with private landlords to find affordable housing but it's first come first serve and can be challenging to accommodate every patient. 

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