The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless hopes to better serve people living on the streets in Denver through a new $46.5 million housing project designed to provide affordable living and a safe place to recover after being discharged from the hospital.
“Denver desperately needs this housing and recuperative care site,” Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said during the development’s recent virtual groundbreaking. “This project comes at a critical time. The connection between housing and health has become clear with COVID-19 and this project is a perfect example of the integrative approach that is needed.”
The new facility will be home to 98 people and have a 75-bed recuperative area that will provide short-term and recovery housing for up to 500 people a year.
John Parvensky, president and CEO of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, said the building at 2175 California St. will not only provide the needed housing and medical services for the homeless community, but will also look like the new market-rate housing that is already in the neighborhood.
Originally, the coalition was going to build a three-story recuperative care center, but the zoning allowed the organization to expand six stories higher. It will be built behind the Stout Street Health Center and the Renaissance Stout Street Lofts, two other coalition facilities, to build upon the services already provided.
The Stout Street Health Center offers a variety of health services including addiction counseling, dental care, vision care and more, serving about 10,000 unique patients a year. The Stout Street Recuperative Care Facility seeks to prevent people from needing to return to the hospital by offering them a place to heal.
“We are taking a significant step forward in the fight to reduce and prevent homelessness,” U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Denver, said in a statement. “The Legacy Lofts will provide the housing we so desperately need, while utilizing the coalition’s holistic approach to housing stability and the recuperative care facility that is especially unique.”
Pavensky said that talks of development began four years ago, but it took a while to get the financing, design and contractor in place needed for construction to begin.
“The dream goes back much longer when we saw the extreme need for respite care for the many people experiencing homelessness who were stuck in the hospital and couldn’t be safely discharged to the streets,” Parvensky said.
Britta Fisher, executive director of the Department of Housing Stability and Denver’s chief housing officer, explained that the project not only provides nearly 100 homes, but also offers a much-needed space to recuperate.
Of the 98 total units, 64 are financed through traditional low-incoming housing tax credits, while the other 34 units are financed through private activity bonds.
These units will each have one bedroom, a kitchen, bathroom and a living room area. The building will also have multiple community spaces.
Renters are expected to pay 30% of their income for rent. If they are unable to pay, they are able to stay for free. However, there is a vocational program in place to help find people jobs. If they are employed and their income increases, so will their rent.
Tenants are chosen through a combination of referrals from the OneHome process, a system that prioritizes individuals based on their need via a vulnerability index, and people who are high utilizers of health care.
Of the top utilizers of the Denver health system, almost 95% are experiencing homelessness, Pavensky said. These cases account for almost $50 million of cost to the system.
By targeting people who use the health care system the most, getting them a safe place to live and the ongoing care they need will reduce the need for hospital visits, thus reducing the cost, Pavensky said.
“Supportive housing clearly saves lives,” Pavensky said. “We just need more of it.”
The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless hopes construction will finish by May 2022, with the grand opening in June.
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