In the past week, Denver has welcomed the creation of almost 200 units of low-income housing for families and former members of the city's homeless community. Today, seven days after Bluff Lake Apartments launched 92 units, the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless marked the grand opening of the $17 million Renaissance West End Flats and West End Health Center -- 101 apartments and a 5,500 square-foot clinic.
"We use the word 'Renaissance' to reflect the new beginnings and the opportunities that the housing we provide gives to our formerly homeless residents," Coalition President John Parvensky says of the project, which is part of the coalition's Renaissance Housing Development Corporation. "We use it to reflect the revitalization and the regeneration of the neighborhoods we're able to help stimulate and the community we're helping to build."
Work on the West End Flats began in April 2008, when the coalition purchased the land, and though progress has built across four years, supporters stressed the importance of continuing to integrate into the surrounding area as fourteen formerly homeless families and 35 formerly homeless individuals move into the space by the end of June. Next month, they will be joined by fifty additional low-income families. In a statement, city councilwoman Susan Shepherd stressed the importance of neighbors in District 1 -- and in Denver in general -- welcoming the growth of low-income housing opportunities.
The West End Flats, which are targeted toward those already enrolled in coalition programs, will be devoted to families and individuals who make between $15,000 and $40,000 a year, between 30 and 60 percent of the local median annual income. Split largely between 75 one-bedroom apartments and 26 two-bedroom units, the community space also features a Denver Cop Shop and the West End Health Center,which is sustained by the Affordable Care Act.
"For too many in our communities, it could not come soon enough," Parvensky said. The city's most recent point in time survey identified more than 12,000 homeless people living in the seven-county Denver metro area. "In Denver and our surrounding communities throughout the state, we're seeing increasing homelessness and economic despair with the recession as it increases unemployment and foreclosures. Clearly, while we celebrate this event, we know there's a lot more we need to do to address the needs of our community."
Parvensky acknowledged the recent "contentious debate" around Denver's urban camping ban, but said both sides of that long argument can agree that services are necessary to make progress on Denver's homelessness issue. And developments like this should be seen as steps: "This development will not simply increase affordable housing in Denver, but it will go a long way toward reducing, preventing and ending homelessness," said Leroy Brown, director of community planning and development for the Denver office of the Department of Housing and Development. "It can, will and does serve as a model throughout Colorado."
Right now, the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless's Stout Street Clinic faces regular lines past its doors of people seeking and waiting for health services. And while the facility will double in size in October, the West End Health Center will provide immediate assistance to at-risk Denver residents.
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"This is a no-brainer," said Anne Warhover, president and CEO of the Colorado Health Foundation. "I'll predict that in ten years, we'll all be getting our primary health care from federally qualified health centers. They provide integrated care, the quality of which you cannot get through private physicians."
All of the 101 apartments will be filled with residents by the middle of next month. In the meantime, those present offered their support to Coloradans affected by the fires spreading across the state with a moment of silence. "Losing one's home has a devastating effect on the individual and the community," Parvensky said. "We know this."
More from our News archive: "Bluff Lake Apartments dedication: Michael Hancock hails affordable housing project."