Denver’s relocation of residents of a Capitol Hill homeless encampment ahead of a cleanup this week resulted in 83 people moving into rooms at an undisclosed hotel, Mayor Mike Johnston said Thursday.
He saw Monday’s relocation effort, which he dubbed as the city’s first successful encampment “closure,” as a demonstration that his administration was on the right path, he said during a news conference. Past sweeps or cleanups usually have resulted in the people living there simply relocating to another public place nearby.
The new mayor has invested significant city staff time and $49 million in city housing funding this year into his push to get 1,000 unhoused people into some form of more stable housing or shelter by the end of the year.
The first test happened across the street from the Colorado governor’s mansion at East Eighth Avenue and Logan Street, ahead of a cleanup of the camp on Tuesday. That highly visible block in Capitol Hill will now be closed to unsanctioned camping permanently.
No one who was offered space at the hotel when city workers arrived Monday declined it, Johnston said.
“What we’ve demonstrated is if you do offer people dignified, stable, transitional housing options, they will not only want that housing, they will jump at the chance to get access to that — and so that was a great affirmation of the strategy currently,” Johnston said.
Still, there were some people who came to the camp after word got out that outreach workers were offering shelter, according to Johnston. City officials initially planned to relocate 70 people and ultimately found room for 13 more, but a handful of camp residents were added to waiting lists, he said.
Homeless advocates this week decried that some people weren’t accommodated and still had to move along to someplace else. Johnston said the excess demand was a lesson his administration will keep in mind as it works toward this year’s goal.
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