As many of you know, UpDoNA has been working hard on the Aloft issue. If you have been following the emails that we have sent out, you know the background. To summarize it very briefly, the Aloft hotel has been used by the City of Denver since 2020 to house homeless men who were at-risk of morbidity due to COVID. In the beginning, we agreed that it was the right thing to do for those individuals. But after two years, we believe it is time to end this contract. Below is a summary of the reason we believe this contract should not be extended
- There is no longer a driving need to protect residents from COVID. While it is true that cases are rising, hospitalizations are quite low due to the reduced virulence of new strains
- The housing of two Sexually Violent Predators and eight others with a history of sexual criminal history in close proximity to the Convention Center and a highly trafficked tourist area is a disaster waiting to happen
- The residents who line up outside have been reported to often be verbally abusing passersby including convention attendees
- Increased drug use in the areas has been a result of the placement here, and it has attracted individuals with violent tendencies to the convention center area
- This has been placed in a hotel in a very expensive area and there must be less expensive areas that can be utilized for this purpose
Although it was originally intended to be a short-term contract, it is currently being extended for the sixth time. The current contract ends June 30th, and the sixth extension will take it to December 31.
Members of UpDoNA’s Safety and Quality of Life Committee toured it and another shelter on April 1. Details about this visit can be found in the article that you can access on the updona.org website, or by clicking on the following link. https://updona.org/2022/04/01/site-visit-to-salvation-armys-crossroads-shelter-and-aloft-hotel/
Meetings with Denver’s Department of Housing Stability (HOST)
After hearing from concerned members and businesses, UpDoNA’s Safety and Quality of Life Committee began meeting with HOST to discuss those concerns. We became especially focused when we were notified that the city is housing two Sexually Violent Predators there. We also found that eight others who have a history of sexual crimes are also housed at Aloft. We requested your help to write emails to the city requesting that the extension not be approved. As a result of those emails, we had a public meeting with the HOST on May 10, 2022 that several UpDoNA members attended. The comportment of HOST during that meeting was not well-received by our committee or by any UpDoNA member in attendance. Details about the meeting can be found in the UpDoNA article that you can access on the updona.org website or by clicking the following link. https://updona.org/2022/05/10/meeting-with-host-on-aloft/
Meetings with Councilman Chris Hinds
Several actions have been taken since then. We met with Councilman Chris Hinds who is the councilman for District 10, and he will become our councilman beginning with the next election when Upper Downtown becomes a part of District 10. During that meeting, we outlined our concerns regarding the continued use of the Aloft Hotel as a low-barrier homeless shelter. Councilman Hinds was very attentive, and he pulled the contract extension from the consent committee while suggesting that we express our concerns during the Public Comment session of the next City Council meeting.
May 23rd City Council Public Comment Session
Members of our committee and two other UpDoNA members spoke at the Public Comment session just prior to the Monday, May 23rd City Council Meeting, outlining our concerns such as drug use by Aloft residents outside of the hotel, expense of the contract and redirecting that money to homeless initiatives, the financial impact to hotels and the convention center, the sexually violent predators, etc.
May 24th Finance & Governance Committee Meeting and Planned Rebuttal
After that, the contract was discussed in the City Council’s Finance & Governance Committee on Tuesday, May 24th. Councilwoman Robin Kniech unfortunately misrepresented and dismissed the issues that we raised, and discounted the legitimate concerns of or members. It was approved by that committee and will move forward to a vote of the full City Council.
Due to Councilwoman’s Kniech’s misrepresentation of the facts, we have requested another meeting with Councilman Hinds and with Councilwoman-At-Large Debbie Ortega to clarify and to discuss the concerns that we presented.
City Council Vote
While it isn’t on the schedule yet, the contract will likely go before the City Council for a vote on Monday, June 6th. We are continuing to resist this and will right up to the vote. We must be honest with you, as we always are. We expect them to approve the contract extension at that time.
An article was printed in the Denverite yesterday by a reporter who was evidently in attendance at the May 23 City Council meeting and heard the Public Comment period. While some people have been upset about the article, we are not. The article does start out with a bit of an incorrect rich vs poor orientation, but if you read it in its entirety, we believe it ended up being a balanced and fair article. In some ways, it even advanced our reasons for wanting the contract extension killed. Here is a link to the article. https://denverite.com/2022/05/25/downtown-denver-residents-want-temporarily-sheltered-homeless-people-out-of-their-neighborhood/
UpDoNA will continue to work on the Aloft contract extension and we continue to meet with HOST to address our concerns. Assuming that it is approved as we expect, we plan to change tactics and approach it a different way to attempt to avoid a seventh extension.
We are not finished, and we will likely ask for your help in another email campaign in our future efforts to end this contract and to move the individuals housed there to other quarters
Photo attribution: Rob Squire