During a recent inspection by the Denver Fire Department, the Salvation Army’s Crossroads Homeless Shelter, which houses more than 550 men per night on average, was found to be in violation of several fire codes.
According to Denver Fire Department spokeswoman Melissa Taylor, the shelter on 29th Street has been ordered to address issues with fire sprinklers, ventilation, its use of porta-potties indoors, and its means of egress – having adequate and accessible pathways for people to exit the building quickly.
Until the issues are addressed, the fire department has capped the capacity of the shelter at 476 occupants per night. In the interim, overflow will continue to be served by the “E-Shelter” at Peoria and I-70, which Westword explored in depth in a 2016 cover story.
“The city is committed to working with the Salvation Army to ensure the Crossroads facility is safe for all occupants, and to determine the ideal number of people that should be served each night and to facilitate the movement of more people to another safe location when demand is high,” says Taylor.
Taylor offered the following explanation of the fire-code violations:
• Fire sprinkler system: Pendent sprinklers in some areas are not in compliance with National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard 13 and shall be inspected or replaced to comply with this standard. All rooms shall be equipped with fire sprinklers as required by NFPA 13 so the entire building is 100 percent protected with fire sprinklers.
• Egress: The building occupancy limit at this time shall be 476 persons. Some areas of the building with inadequate egress are being used as sleeping areas; Crossroads shall discontinue the use of these areas as sleeping areas and shall bring other egress areas into compliance with International Building Code Chapter 10.
• Plumbing and Ventilation: Portable restrooms shall be removed from the interior of the building, and permanent standard toilets, lavatories and showers shall be installed in accordance with 2015 IBC Chapter 29. Air circulation shall be improved to comply with 2015 International Mechanical Code standards.
The shelter will not need to close to address the issues, notes Julie Smith of Denver Human Services; she also told Westword that the city is “assessing ways to improve the overall experience for guests at Crossroads, no matter demand.”
That demand does not look to be decreasing soon, especially as more men need to be bused out to the city’s overflow shelter each night to be able to sleep indoors.
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In January, the city announced that it is purchasing a new property near I-70 and Colorado Boulevard to replace the Peoria Shelter, which it plans to turn into a 9-1-1 call center. An earlier deal for a property in Sun Valley, closer to Denver's city center, was scuttled; that property is reported to be the subject of a lawsuit after the owner pulled out of the transaction with the city.
In the meantime, decreased capacity at the Crossroads Shelter underscores how essential overflow shelters are to meeting demand and fulfilling the city’s promise to provide overnight space for anyone who wants it. This winter, the Peoria shelter has not just been a use-it-when-you-need-it, “emergency” shelter, but rather a critical and regular part of the shelter system.