Housing Plan Continues Mass Homelessness and Housing Instability in 2021

SAME OLD, SAME OLD Denver HOST 

Housing Plan Continues Mass Homelessness and Housing Instability in 2021

…But they pretend they are doing great things. The Denver Department of Housing Stability (HOST) has released their 2021 draft plan. The draft plan takes 28 pages to say that they will not be creating housing for those without housing or severely cost burdened trying to afford their housing. The plan gives important data showing the severity of our housing need for poor and BIPOC people. But instead of responding to this massive injustice of house-hoarding by the rich and white to create a plan for making housing attainable for all, the plan says the City can’t do this and will only create housing at the same rate they have been for the past many years. 

Under this plan, 610 new housing units will be created – and it does not even say how many of these units will be for people earning below 30% AMI. 

It does say 130 will be “supportive” housing (meaning low income with other services). These are likely the only units that are being made attainable for low / no-income people coming from homelessness. So expect to see 130 of the 10,000 plus people who are homeless housed in 2021.

All the case management, street outreach, employment programs in the world cannot land someone in a home if there is not housing made available for them to move into. 

The plan uses big numbers and fancy sounding goals like “Support 5,000 households in homelessness resolution programs” but when you look at what this includes (e.g., shelter, street outreach, rehousing programs, employment programs) you find none of it includes creating actual housing options for these people. 

How many times do we need to correct our City for equating shelters with housing??? A mass congregate shelter where you live in big open rooms with hundreds of others is not a house. 

The plan notes that, “Due to safe distancing requirements with the coronavirus, we lost more than half of our shelter capacity” (now totaling 900 beds). The plan also notes that “while comprising less than 1% of Denver residents, about 5% of all those who have tested positive for COVID-19 are persons experiencing homelessness” (almost all of these live in shelters). 

But instead of seeing this as an indication that shelters are not a good place for people to live, especially during this pandemic, they make plans to rebuild the shelter system back to pre-COVID numbers. The plan notes that, “Through July 2020, the City spent roughly $27.9 million on sheltering support.” Instead of being spent to shore up shelters, this $27.9 million could create permanent housing for about 135 of these people (based on City estimates of $200,000 per unit) or it could open up temporary (indefinite months) hotel rooms for all 900 people in the shelters plus some (based on the cost of the current hotel contract with CCH). 

The way it stands, this is not a plan to house the people of Denver. It is a plan to keep the status quo of mass homelessness, housing instability, warehousing, and criminalization of visible homelessness. 

If the City is going to put forward a plan like this that admits they will not be creating enough housing for all and that thousands of people will be forced to live on the streets without access to housing, at the very least they need to include a plan to end the criminalization of this public houseless survival. This plan should note that since they will not be providing housing options for all, people without housing forced to live on the streets will not be swept from block to block, approached by police with Survival Ban enforcement for using a tent or blanket, and will be provided necessary sanitation resources such as portable toilets, sharps collection, trash containers and collection services, handwashing stations, and clean drinking water.

Alternatively, the City can make a plan to move money, land, and laws around so as to make housing attainable for all in Denver. Money could be moved from the Police, Jails, Shelters, Administration, Golf Courses, and other harmful or bloated budget items to create this housing. Vacant land could be made available for immediate tent survival and long term housing construction. And laws could be changed to open up existing vacant hotels and housing units for people without housing to live. 

Housing is a human right. Not a privilege for the rich. Denver MUST make a housing budget that treats housing as right not a privilege. This plan is not “Doing Better.” 

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