Denver Getting Federal Money for Homeless Shelter Motel Purchase | Westword

Congress Finally Comes Through With Funding for Denver Motel Purchase

The city still hasn't closed on the Travelodge.
Denver has planned to purchase this motel on Peoria Street and turn it into a homeless shelter.
Denver has planned to purchase this motel on Peoria Street and turn it into a homeless shelter. Conor McCormick-Cavanagh
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Over ten months after Mayor Michael Hancock announced that the City of Denver would be buying a motel just south of Interstate 70 on Peoria Street to temporarily house people experiencing homelessness, Congress has finally come through with $2 million worth of funding that the city has been waiting on for the purchase.

"Housing is essential to tackling homelessness, but so are wraparound services for residents to get back on their feet. This project does both, and it’s a model for the rest of the country," says Senator John Hickenlooper, a Democrat who represents Colorado, about the project.

The City of Denver had been planning to purchase the former Stay Inn motel, now a Travelodge, for $7.8 million and turn it into a homeless shelter, with 94 rooms that can be single or double occupancy, and also host small households. City officials wanted to use the motel for two years as an emergency homeless shelter before eventually adding a permanent housing component.

Denver had anticipated paying $4.6 million of the purchase price using non-emergency federal grant money and another $2 million in federal funding that Colorado lawmakers, including Congresswoman Diana DeGette, a Democrat from Denver, have been pushing to secure.

But the anticipated federal windfall was slow to come through. At first, the City of Denver was waiting on Congress to approve an appropriations bill for the 2022 fiscal year that would include the money. In July 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill that included the $2 million earmarked for the motel purchase. But it took until March 10 for the U.S. Senate to approve the spending bill, which President Joe Biden signed into law on March 15.

"We are very grateful for the federal funding Congresswoman DeGette has advocated for coming to Denver for this and other critical projects," says Sabrina Allie, a spokesperson for the Department of Housing Stability.

The City of Denver has not yet closed on the motel, however. "The City remains in a period of extended due diligence and conversation with the seller," says Allie, who could not confirm whether the asking price and details of the project are the same. "It’s been some time since the initial announcement, and, as I said, we are still in discussions with the owner."

The move to buy a motel and turn it into an emergency shelter marks a first for the City of Denver. While Denver uses motels as emergency shelters, the city typically contracts directly with nonprofit entities that own the motels or offers vouchers to people experiencing homelessness that they can use at privately owned motels.

The city plans to contract with a service provider to staff and run the motel once it's transformed into an emergency shelter.

Colorado's congressional delegation also secured funding for a handful of other projects related to homelessness in the latest appropriations package, including $3 million for Urban Peak to construct a new shelter for youth experiencing homelessness in Denver.
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