Below is an email that was sent out to the membership on December 19, 2022. That is repeated here for completeness, and an update is provided at the end.
For several months, UpDoNA’s Safety and Quality of Life Committee has worked with the Department of Housing Stability and others on the Aloft issue. It has been our position that Denver has a need and a responsibility to provide homeless shelters to house our homeless population. The specific purpose for the use of Aloft Hotel as an emergency action shelter has been to provide private accommodations to the segment of the homeless population that would have been most susceptible to COVID if they had remained in a congregate environment. During the pandemic, this was necessary, and we supported it. However, significant drug use and drug dealing as well as other disturbing actions have commonly been observed at and around the Aloft Hotel. Recently, the corner occupied by the Aloft Hotel was designated as a Hot Spot of Public Health Harms. This has been particularly concerning in an area as economically sensitive as the Convention Center Corridor. As time has gone on and the severe health impacts due to COVID have diminished, we believe that the need for these accommodations has decreased, while at the same time, the impacts due to this shelter’s presence have increased.
In addition to asking UpDoNA members to send emails to city government, we have been working with the Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association to convince the city that this contract should end, and that the residents should be moved to other shelters in an area less impactful to Denver’s fragile economic recovery. We have not been free to discuss the specifics until now.
We are happy to announce that a Resolution will go before the Denver City Council’s Finance and Governance Committee on Tuesday. In that Resolution, the contract with the Aloft Hotel will end, the building will undergo significant refurbishment, and will once again operate as an Aloft Hotel beginning or about August 1, 2023. To provide more time to identify new housing for the current residents, the current contract will be extended one final time, with shelter operations to cease permanently on April 30, 2023.
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A couple of things are important to note. The Resolution will go to committee tomorrow where we expect it to pass. Subsequently, the Resolution will go to a vote of the full city council sometime in late December or more likely after the first of the year. We will keep you posted as this measure progresses.
We strongly request that UpDoNA members DO NOT send emails to city council about this Resolution. It would not be helpful
Finally, we’d like to thank UpDoNA members for emailing our city leaders. We were told that those emails impacted the decisions being made.
Safety and Quality of Life Committee
Contract Extension Summary:
On Tuesday, December 20, 2022, this measure was discussed in the Denver City Council’s Finance and Governance Committee (FinGov). Lisa Lumley, Denver’s Director of Real Estate, introduced the contract. As has been the case in the past, there are two separate contracts. One is the Emergency Occupancy Agreement and the other is the Food Service agreement. In summary:
- This is the seventh and final extension to those contracts.
- This extension brings the total combined contract value to just under $20 million.
- The contracts pay JBK Hotels $125 per resident per day, which amounts to $45,625 per resident per year
- Shelter operations will cease permanently on April 30, 2023
- The building will be renovated for the following three months
- The building should resume operation as a hotel on approximately August 1, 2023
During her presentation, Ms. Lumley stated on record that the city was not going to purchase the building. She also stated that the building would be partially vacated by mid-April and completely empty by the end of April, 2023.
It should be noted that these contracts are only part of the total cost to the taxpayer. Contracts also exist with the Salvation Army as the service operator, Roth Property Maintenance for cleaning, and Securitas for security. There are also additional costs for personnel from the Department of Homeless Resolution and Housing Stability (HOST) who are assigned to the shelter.
Discussion during the meeting:
After Ms. Lumley introduced the contract, Angie Nelson who is Deputy Director of HOST spoke. She specifically mentioned UpDoNA and the concerns that we have raised about safety. She did not mention our concerns about drug use and dealing. Ms. Nelson specifically indicated that this will be the final amendment to the contract. While we have heard those words before, this is the first time we heard it stated in Council. She also mentioned that HOST will be developing a transition plan. The Safety and Quality of Life Committee hopes and believes that this plan will lead to housing or shelter for all current Aloft residents.
Councilwoman-At-Large Ortega asked clarification questions about the transition plan. Councilman Chris Hinds asked questions reinforcing the schedule for residents vacating the building, stating that he didn’t want any miscommunication. He also indicated that some Aloft residents have also been frustrated about the activities that have been occurring around the building.
Councilwoman Kniech stated that she is disappointed the city isn’t purchasing the building for permanent use as a shelter. Members of the Safety and Quality of Life Committee do not share her disappointment.
Vote and Forward Plan
The Finance and Governance Committee voted to adopt the contract extensions. It will go to a vote of the full City Council after the first of the year.
Photo attribution: Rob Squire