UpDoNA’s Safety and Quality of Life Committee has been working to end the city’s contract with Aloft Hotel at 15th & Stout, and as a fallback at least mitigate the impacts that the surrounding community is experiencing because of it. That hotel has been used as a temporary shelter for homeless during the pandemic, starting in early 2020. Most of the residents of Upper Downtown and the members of UpDoNA understood the reasoning behind using Aloft to shelter homeless individuals who, either because of age or underlying health conditions, were more susceptible to the severe effects of Covid. However, UpDoNA members and others feel that the time has passed for the need of this type of arrangement. Therefore, we initiated an email campaign which resulted in a meeting with the Department of Housing Stability (HOST) and the mayor’s office on Tuesday, June 10.
Meeting with HOST
We made a presentation at that time which outlined the problems we see with it, specifically:
- The housing of Sexually Violent Predators and others convicted of sexual crimes that we know to be living there
- Open drug use that has occurred in the alley behind Aloft
- The lineup of people sitting at the front of Aloft on broken down chairs Stout Street who have been reported to be making catcalls and other comments to passersby
We also outlined the impacts that we believe those problems are having including:
- Loss of the use of that block of Stout Street to residents of Spire
- Fear of sexual attacks
- General perception of an unsafe environment
- Impacts to Convention Business
- Impacts to hotel business
- Fiscal impacts to the post COVID economic recovery of our city
The response by HOST was to present a previously-generated presentation that they believe justifies the contract, and in general seemed to provide responses to questions that explained their reasons for the contract but did nothing to address our concerns.
In a subsequent meeting with Evan Dryer (Deputy Chief of Staff to Mayor Hancock), he indicated that we had presented a cogent argument for the termination of the contract, but nevertheless said that the city was going to proceed with it. He explained that he hears similar arguments from those impacted by other homeless shelters and while they are good arguments, if the city listened to all of them there would be no shelters. Mr. Dyer went on to state that if there were no shelters those residents would be living in tents on the streets and we wouldn’t want that. While this was discouraging at best, it at least is a reason. He did indicate that the city would attempt to mitigate the impacts that we are seeing, particularly the vagrancy along Stout and the drug use in the alley. We will set up another meeting to provide a list of requested changes. We told Mr. Dyer that UpDoNA will continue our attempts to address the Aloft contract. He understood our position.
The contract is now at the City Council for approval. We have contacted Chris Hinds who will be our Councilman following the next election in November (assuming that he is re-elected) and the two At-Large Councilwomen, Robin Kneich and Debbie Ortega, requesting the opportunity to present to them before they vote. That vote is not currently on the schedule, so we may have time.
While members of the Safety and Quality of Life committee hope that we will convince the City Council to vote against this contract extension, we do not have high expectations that will occur. Nevertheless, we are going to make this one last attempt. If the contract extension still goes through, we will likely then turn our attention to Marriott, the parent company to Aloft.
Photo attribution: Rob Squire