News Briefs - January 2015



LAST MONTH, DENVER’S CITY COUNCIL approved the purchase of
a $2.3 million building, located at 405 S. Platte River Dr. The
25,000 sq. ft. building is expected to house a new behavioral
health crisis center termed the Solutions Center. As proposed,
the center will treat 46 addicted, mentally ill, and homeless
individuals for about 30 days each and could open as early as
this fall; further details about the program will emerge once a
service provider is chosen to run the center.
In addition, the Denver Rescue Mission has begun
construction on its 11,000 sq. ft. community center, situated
behind its shelter at Lawrence Street and Broadway. The
community center, partially paid for with an $8.6 million grant
from the city, will include showers and bathrooms, a larger
kitchen facility, and a courtyard to serve as an outdoor day
shelter for the homeless.
Both projects have caused frustrations in the community.
Critics of the Solution Center and advocates for the homeless
do not want to see this center replace low-income housing and
what they say is a much-needed shelter—particularly the 24-
hour rest and resource shelter the city promised when it passed
a ban on sleeping on the street in May 2012. The city’s leaders on
the project, Bennie Milliner, director of Denver’s Road Home,
and Evan Dreyer, the mayor’s deputy chief of staff, said the
24-hour shelter is still on their agenda, but they haven’t found
a location, and affordable housing is a focus of the mayor’s
recently introduced five-year housing plan.
Part of the money for the Solutions Center building will come
from funding being reimbursed by the Denver Rescue Mission.
An additional $59,000 will come from the $1 million Denver’s
Department of Human Services has put aside for the rest and
resource center.
The building was originally sought by the city to serve as
the 24-hour rest and resource center, but the city adjusted its
plans in response to the neighbors’ concern. But residential
and commercial neighbors are still concerned. In the Athmar
Park neighborhood, the building sits across the street from the
Platte River and its trail, about a mile from a school and a halfmile
from a $5.5 million renovation of a riverside park, which is
supposed to have an educational campsite for children.
If the building is purchased, the city will seek a provider to
operate the center and more details will be available. The
city has said that it will not be a drop-in center, and that all
individuals will be referred to the center via service providers,
police, court, and first responders. Security will be required and
all individuals who choose to leave the center will be escorted
out of the neighborhood, not just released out the front door.
The Ballpark Neighborhood Association fought the DRM’s
community center in the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustments.
The association argued that the center was an extension of the
shelter’s services, and therefore not allowed to be built without a
larger public hearing that comes with requesting a use variance.
The Board of Adjustments ruled the center was legal, and the
Ballpark Association is considering further action. ■


METRO DENVER HOMELESS INITIATIVE is seeking volunteers for the
annual Point-in-Time survey. Each year, MDHI and a team of
over 100 volunteers work with organizations serving the homeless
to collect information on the number of people experiencing
homelessness on a particular night in the seven-county Denver
Metro Area. This year, MDHI will gather information on people
experiencing homelessness the night of Jan. 26.
In the past, the PIT survey was entirely census-based.
Individuals who refused to take the survey were not counted,
even if they were homeless. This year MDHI will transition to a
statistical sampling method, and will use Homeless Management
Information System data to improve the accuracy of the count
and lesson the burden on homeless service providers.
Although the change in method means it will be difficult to
compare the 2015 data to previous years, MDHI executive
director Gary Sanford points out that previous year-to-year
comparisons have been using less accurate data. Ultimately,
MDHI wants to clean up both the approach to the PIT survey
and the method of counting to get more accurate numbers in
the future.
A more accurate “snapshot” of those experiencing
homelessness will help service providers serve those in need.
“At the end of the day,” said Sanford, “it’s about how many
people get housed.” ■
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