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Denver’s neediest face tougher times as emergency Aloft hotel shelter closes

Unhoused Denver residents who have health problems face increasingly difficult days following the shutdown this week of one of the two hotels converted to be government-backed temporary emergency shelters during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 140-room Aloft hotel downtown has closed its doors, clerks confirmed Friday, saying this six-story building near the Convention Center now is undergoing “renovations” and won’t be re-opened until July — as a commercial hotel. Since January, city caseworkers have been tasked with helping about 124 people who were staying in Aloft find other shelters.

Denver City Council members approved $13.3 million last year to fund extended use of the Aloft building for a six-month period that ended on Thursday. The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 raised concerns about health risks in group shelters and city officials set up the emergency protective shelters — using federal pandemic relief funds — for residents with respiratory and other ailments who needed individual rooms. Federal relief funding is ending.

Salvation Army workers running Aloft have helped moved residents to another temporary shelter, a former La Quinta motel at 3500 Park Ave. West owned by the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, called the Park Avenue Inn. This now is the only temporary facility where residents who need isolation for medical reasons can have individual rooms.

Former Aloft residents have moved in, a clerk said Friday.

Denver residents with health problems who were seeking shelter this week were referred to the homeless coalition’s Stout Street Health Center downtown, where caseworkers control the issuance of housing vouchers.

Denver officials were mum on Friday. City officials at the Denver Department of Housing Stability did not respond to queries, but officials with the Colorado Colation for the Homeless responded.

“We will always need places for people experiencing homelessness to recover from COVID and other ailments. The hospital is not an appropriate place to house people,” coalition spokeswoman Cathy Alderman said. “It should be part of our strategy for people experiencing homelessness who have health issues to be able to stay in places where they can receive health care.”

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