Housekeys Action Network Denver

HAND City Budget Proposals for Housing and Health

Housekeys Action Network Denver City Budget Proposals for Housing and Health

Denver City Council is in discussions on the Mayor’s proposed 2023 City Budget until a final vote on November 14th 2022. Yet again the Mayor’s budget puts the largest present of City money – 36% – into police and jails. And yet again, low-income housing is getting a drop in the bucket of the money. 

While the HOST budget is 5% larger this year than last, at $254million, only tiny amounts of this money (which is very hard to even calculate given the way the budget is outlined) are planned to go for actual very low/no-income housing. The increase in the HOST budget is due to federal ARPA funds, not due to investment from the City. The budget only has a $2 million increase from the general fund from last year to this year. Meanwhile the Mayor’s police budget jumped 8% from 2021 to 2022 – an increase of $43 million. 

We, Housekeys Action Network Denver, have written seven budget proposals for City Council to amend the Mayor’s budget and move money from police, jails, and faulty shelter systems into housing and health resources. These proposals would double the number of very low-income (under 30%AMI) housing units created in 2023 (from 219 to 419), would triple the number of hotels parched and converted to housing (from 2 to 6), and would improve and establish public health infrastructure (including water fountains, bathrooms, and showers) for sanitation in our City. See full proposals attached.

City Council members have the opportunity to introduce budget amendments between now and November 14th 2022 at the final hearing and vote. Public comment on the City Budget will be on October 24th 2022 in the City Council chambers or virtual. City Council members need to hear from you about the need for your tax dollars to be used for housing and health, not police and jails!! 

Contact your council member and ask them to support these proposals. 

Find my council district https://www.denvergov.org/maps/map/councildistricts 

City Council Contacts https://www.denvergov.org/Government/Agencies-Departments-Offices/Agencies-Departments-Offices-Directory/Denver-City-Council/Meet-the-Council-Members 

Onwards towards housing and health for all…

City Master Leasing Housing Budget Proposal 2023

What: 

The City of Denver will master lease apartments and then lease these apartments to houseless people who will pay ⅓ of their income to cover part of the rent costs. 

Why:

139 elderly, sick and disabled people were just kicked out of their rooms at the Quality putting 49 of them on the streets, shelters, cars, or temporary unstable hotel stays. These are just some of the most vulnerable houseless people in our City who desperately need housing. These people face many barriers to securing housing. By the City doing the work to secure units and offset costs so that residents can afford the housing based on their income, housing can be secured faster and cheaper than most other avenues. Long term, the City or other public entities owning the housing and renting at real costs is the most cost effective, stable, and accessible housing method, but in the meantime before that is secured master leasing is the fastest and cheapest way to secure housing.   

Where: 

The City of Denver will lease apartments that are open on the market anywhere within Denver. Locations should be within a few blocks from a bus stop, near grocery stores, near medical facilities, and near other services. No neighborhood of Denver can exempt themselves from leasing housing through this program.  

Who:

Apartments will be rented to people who are currently houseless with priority given first to displaced residents from Quality Inn or other protective action hotels which have shut down. After these displaced hotel residents have secured housing, priority will be given to houseless families, and marginalized communities including Black people, Indigenous people, Immigrants, people with disabilities, and LGBTQA people. 

How: 

HOST will administer the program: securing the units, taking applications from houseless people, administering income based charges for rent and taking rent payments from residents, and otherwise overseeing the master leasing and tenant leasing of the apartments. 

*Supports: Organizations will be contracted to provide residents with needed supports such as benefits assistance, employment opportunities, mental health support, community connections, and the like. These supports will be provided through a network of providers and community. 

Funding:

$5mil shall be moved from Police Department and Shelters to this housing

Costs:

$5million will cover the cost of the City paying $1,500 per apartment per month for 200 apartments, totaling $3,600,000 a year – leaving $1,400,000 left for administration and support services.

The closure of Quality Inn kicked 90 elderly, sick, and disabled people out who did not have housing secured (including folks moved to other Protective Action Hotels). With federal funding for these hotels ending, the housing these hotels provided for elderly, sick, disabled, and other vulnerable people must be replaced. Currently, there is no secure plan to keep Aloft open past December 31st which could mean another roughly 130 very sick, elderly, disabled people being kicked to the shelters and streets this winter. More properties must be acquired to be transformed into no-income and very low-income housing for people who would be living at these protective action hotels. The funding included in the budget for more hotel acquisitions is much needed and well used (though more acquisition is needed than three properties). However, as has been stated, buying and converting properties takes time and in this time people who need this housing are suffering and even dying on the streets and shelters. In order to secure safe housing for these people right away, the City must master lease apartments and lease them to these houseless people at 30% of their income. 

We recently surveyed over 800 houseless people about housing. One of the questions asked, “Do you think families, disabled people, or seniors should get priority access to housing opportunities?” 77% of survey respondents said YES. Following this direction from the large majority of houseless people, we are proposing these housing opportunities be given first to displaced Quality Inn or other displaced protective action hotel residents who are elderly and disabled, and also to families. Furthermore, given the disparities of houselessness among BIPOC, LGBTQA, immigrants, and other marginalized communities, this proposal gives priority to these communities for these housing opportunities.   

This has been done before. In 2017,  Denver started a program called “Live Denver” where the City master leased luxury apartments which poor people then rented at ⅓ of their income. This program at one time had 1,000 apartments secured. At the time the program was run by the Office of Economic Development. While the master leasing program being proposed here is different in some ways, it has the same process of the City securing the housing units through contract and then the City subsidizing the tenant’s rent. 

In 2019 when a similar proposal was being discussed in Council, comments from council people were that it is too expensive to rent apartments in the market and that landlords won’t rent to poor or houseless people. These comments are particularly ironic as these are the same problems houseless people face! If the housing were not too expensive than houseless people could afford to rent! And landlord discrimination against poor and houseless people is a constraint barrier to seuring housing as people turn in countless applications and are turned down again and again. Given this reality causing and perpetuating mass houselessness, it is time the City experiences this for themselves until they buy/build housing off the market kept affordable and public. 

Support services for residents are included in this master leasing program. Residents will be offered support which they can use or not based on their own needs and desires. The supports this proposal includes are based on the direction of displaced Quality Inn residents needing this housing, as well as from our survey of over 800 houseless people on supports needed in housing. In our Housing Survey, when asked, “What support would you need, if any, to stay in housing?” The number one answer was financial with 60% of respondents asking for this. The number two response was partner/family/friends able to stay or visit freely with 34% putting this as a top support need. Other top support needs were help with paperwork/dealing with bureaucracy, legal assistance, and mental health experts. These support needs should be top priority for residents of this housing. 

The 15mil spent running the Quality Inn Protective Acton hotel for 2 ½ years could pay for over 200 apartments for houseless people to live in for a year. If the City were paying $1,500 per apartment per month for 200 apartments this would cost $3,600,000 a year – leaving $1,400,000 left for administration and support services. This calculator assumes roughly a total rent and utilities cost of $1,800 a month (the current average) with the resident paying roughly $300 as ⅓ of their income. Some residents will have more income and some less but this is an estimated average. Rents could also be found at lower cost which would decrease this as well. 

Shifting money to directly secure housing for low income people is the best way we as a City can start addressing the housing inaccessibility in Denver which is the top priority of Denverites.

City Hotel Acquisition Budget Proposal 

What:

City acquisition of two additional hotels for housing and shifting the hotels planned as “navigation centers” into housing. 

Why:

The City budget currently has 23mil dedicated to hotel acquisition for “navigation centers.” It appears that these navigation centers will turn hotel rooms into group rooms with 4 beds and will be treated as temporary places to navigate to housing, not as housing to live in. While some people do prefer to stay with a community, people should not be forced to live with a group of 4 random people. And while the benefits of moving in without going through ID and applications processes for housing are needed, navigating from there to housing that does not exist is ineffective, and living as a shelter guest without the rights of housing leaves people in continual instability. Instead the 23mil going for these navigation centers should be brought up to 40mil and these funding used to buy four more hotels, in addition to the other two planned for 20mil, to be turned into housing. 

Where:

The City of Denver will buy hotels that are open on the market anywhere within Denver. Locations should be within a few blocks from a bus stop, near grocery stores, near medical facilities, and near other services. No neighborhood of Denver can exempt themselves.

How: 

HOST will purchase these hotels and convert them into housing with small kitchenettes and other needed amenities. 

Who:

The process of accessing this housing will allow houseless people to walk up and apply directly, as well as being referred by outreach workers, case managers, or going through service agencies. Access will not be limited to those going through certain service agencies.  

Funding:

$17mil should be moved from the Police Department and Shelters to this housing to bring the full budget for this housing to $40mil. (Plus the $20mil already designated for hotels to be converted to housing). 

Costs: This $40mil will cover the cost of purchasing two hotels

*Note: This housing should include a program for immediate move in prior to processing paperwork and documents normally required for housing. When someone moves in prior to processing the leasing paperwork, during this time they will be treated as a guest such as a guest of a hotel. Once they are able to process leasing paperwork, they will then be treated as a tenant with tenants rights. 

We (Housekeys Action Network Denver) recently conducted a Housing Survey with over 800 houseless people about housing. This survey asked an open ended question of “When you talk about wanting housing, what are you thinking of?” A large present of respondents wrote something about privacy as central to what they want in housing. Having one’s own private space with a door that locks is one of the most common answers to what people are looking for in housing. Being put in a room with other people who you are not choosing to live with is not what houseless people are asking for in housing. The ability to have partners, family or friends visit or stay, is also a common theme in what people want in housing. However this desire for freedom of visiting guests or living with a partner comes from the same people who also name privacy and a door that locks as a top desire in housing.  There is a difference between having guests you choose, and being forced to live with people in one room with no privacy. These navigation centers are better turned into housing that can meet this critical need for privacy with the ability for guests to visit like any other home. 

Another common theme when answering what folks are thinking of in housing was kitchens and the ability to cook a meal. The ability to cook your own food is critical for one’s health, finances, and personal well being. It also saves providers huge amounts of money as individuals can provide their own food instead of depending on expensive, often unhealthy, mass cooked food. 

This is a critical opportunity to use federal dollars to create the housing we need and build it in a way that will create safe, desired, comfortable housing for all residents.

WASH Budget Proposals 2023

Water Stations

Denver has a very small number of these water stations around the city, most of which do not work at least half or all of the time. These broken water stations must be fixed and new ones put in at key locations around Denver. Out of the 136 public water fountains mapped during the summer of 2021, only 41 or (30%) were functioning and there are no accessible water sources during the winter. Almost 2/3 unhoused people (65.3%) we surveyed said that accessing water points was a challenge in their lives.

What: Water fountains with extra pour spots at ground level and bottle filling spots, vandalism and frost resistant. Some fountains may be plumbed through public facilities but with water fountains outside. 

There will also be comprehensive regular testing of water quality. 

Where: Locations: People surveyed want to see more bathrooms and water sources everywhere, as often as every other block. The places most preferred for locating water sources and toilets were (in order of most frequently mentioned) parks, encampments, and transit stations. The parks most frequently mentioned (in order) were: Civic Center Park, Benedict Fountain Park, Central Park, and Governor’s Park. Other places frequently mentioned were along the Platte River trail, outside shelters, outside recreation centers, Union Station, along Colfax, and along Broadway.

Cost: $166,450 total for water stations. $76,450 for 10 water stations. $80,000 to install. And $10,000 for maintenance. (Here is an example of a vandal proof and freeze resistant fountain)

How: Denver Department of Transportation and Infrastructure, together with the Parks Department when in Parks, shall be responsible for installing, fixing, and maintaining water stations. 

Showers and Laundry

There are two non-profit organizations doing great work providing showers and laundry services in Denver. However, they do not have the funding needed to provide the level of service they could. Both Bayaud Enterprises and Showers for All run laundry and a shower trucks which go to places where people without housing can access them. These programs should be fully funded. More than 2/3 unhoused people surveyed said that finding a shower was difficult. The ability to shower not only protects physical health, but also mental health and people’s ability to get a job and avoid stigmatization. In cases where the shower truck is inoperable due to extreme cold weather, day passes to recreation centers to take showers along with laundry tokens shall be given.

What: Bayaud Enterprises and Showers for All laundry and shower truck programs

Where: Look at locations from survey

Cost: For Bayaud: Total cost of $367,080 with $123,970 for 5 days a week running the Laundry Truck and $243,110 for 5 days a week running the Combo Landry/Shower Truck.

For Showers for All: Total cost of $215,800 with $67,000 for a new shower/laundry truck and $148,800 for operation. 

Together total cost of $582,880

How: The City already contracts with Bayaud Enterprises and can add funding for these programs. The City can do the same for Showers for All. In addition to the funding DOTI and Parks department must ensure these organizations have proper access to water hookups and locations to park. 

Bathrooms

There are not enough public bathrooms in the City, especially in areas where encampments are common. Based on a mapping project of all public facilities in Denver we found that there were no bathrooms available overnight and 80% of the bathrooms were seasonal. 43% were not ADA accessible, and 55% lacked soap and water or hand sanitizer. When we surveyed unhoused people, almost half (47.9%) reported having to “hold it” to find a decent bathroom every day, while another 32.1% report having to do the same a few times a week. 76% of people said it was a daily challenge to find a restroom. In the absence of municipal facilities, almost half of the people we surveyed (46%) are sometimes going to the bathroom in places that compromise their health and the larger community’s health: allies, outdoors, in tents, or in the river.

What: Open all permeant facilities. Better maintain existing facilities. Build more permeant restrooms where they are needed. Find a way to keep open some facilities over the winter, which may mean additional hours on city buildings like libraries or rec centers. Install X Portland Loos. This model is effective because it is considered to be less vulnerable to abuse and safer than other public restrooms. Bathrooms should have locking doors/security, be regularly cleaned, and have access to hand washing. These were among the amenities unhoused people prioritized in bathrooms.

Where: Locations: People surveyed want to see more bathrooms and water sources everywhere, as often as every other block. The places most preferred for locating water sources and toilets were (in order of most frequently mentioned) parks, encampments, and transit stations. The parks most frequently mentioned (in order) were: Civic Center Park, Benedict Fountain Park, Central Park, and Governor’s Park. Other places frequently mentioned were along the Platte River trail, outside shelters, outside recreation centers, Union Station, along Colfax, and along Broadway.

Cost: $1Million total. $700,000 for 5 Portland Loos installed and connected. $300,000 for maintenance and cleaning. (The company that markets the Loos is Madden Fabrications

How: Denver Department of Transportation and Infrastructure, together with the Parks Department when in Parks, shall install and maintain these bathrooms. Houseless and poor people can be hired through these departments at a living wage to clean these bathrooms multiple times a day. 

Trash Removal

In 2018 a program was created through Bayaud Enterprises to hire houseless and recently houseless people to clean trash in areas with high houseless populations needing that additional cleaning support. This program was eventually shifted to focus on BID contracted areas and then eventually ended. This program should be brought back and revamped to hire more houseless folks at a living wage, and to focus on encampment areas with large populations and without existing trash infrastructure.  

What: Trash Crew including trash collection infrastructure for areas where people live without housing or proper trash infrastructure. 

Where: Rotating areas of need based on where houseless people are staying without needed trash infrastructure. 

Cost: $264,000 for staffing, supports, materials, and administration to run the program

How: Bayaud Enterprises or another interested agency will hire houseless or recently houseless people to be part of the crew. The trash crew will go to identified areas of high need where houseless people live without trash infrastructure and will remove trash from these areas. They will also work with DOTI to install the needed trash cans and get these trash cans on the trash pickup cycle. 

Recreation Center Passes

Recreation Centers can provide a critical space for exercise, showering, and keeping healthy when without housing. Passes should be given to houseless people for free access to Recreation Centers. 

What: Free day passes to the Denver Recreation Centers for houseless people.

Where: All Denver Recreation Centers 

Cost:$25,000 for 5,000 day passes.

How: Free day passes to Denver Recreation Centers will be issued to houseless service agencies to give to people seeking services. Recreation Centers will give day passes to anyone filling out a PLAY pass application for as long as it takes their PLAY application to be processed. 

Note: The Lyall v Denver settlement agreement specifies that all Denver Recreations Centers must allow houseless people to apply for the PLAY program (a free or reduced cost rec center pass) using a “homeless ID card” and that a letter from a service provider or labor pay stubs as proof of income. These PLAY passes could be a great way for houseless people to utilize the rec centers but this program is not publicized to the houseless community or made easy to apply. Every Rec Center, Shelter, Day Center, Library, and other places houseless people go should have PLAY applications and all the paperwork needed to apply visible and accessible. Staff should be training on how to help houseless people apply. Recreations centers cannot ask for additional paperwork beyond what is specified in the application.

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