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Explainer | homelessness and zoning

Updated: Oct 6

There's a connection and details matter


Safety, Housing, Education, and Homelessness Committee

City Council's Safety, Housing, Education, and Homelessness Committee met on August 18, 2021 with Denver Homeless Out Loud (DHOL). DHOL presented a survey and report to the committee.


Briefing highlights

There were conflicting statements made about services: no services are needed, more services are needed, the "right" kind of services are needed.


DHOL surveyed 150 homeless individuals:

#1 choice for housing is a house (90% of those surveyed)

#2 choice is a tent

#3 choice is a shelter


CW Sawyer asked why homeless individuals refuse services.

DHOL response:

1) most don't need services

2) doesn't respect their autonomy

3) doesn't meet their needs

4) loss of survival gear in storage


CW Sandoval asked why the hotel shelter on I-25 and Speer Blvd. is not successful.

DHOL response: Could be many factors, one of which is lack of adequate services. "Unhoused behavior is not conducive to housed behavior that is successful. When someone has been unhoused for 1-10 years, you put them in a house and suddenly they have campfires in their living room."


DHOL requested City Council fund more transitional housing, SOS camps, and tiny homes; defund shelters


DHOL wants more transitional housing, more SOS camps, and more tiny homes, but not shelters. Why? The answer is in the zoning code.


The Mayor and City Council wrote and passed the Group Living Amendment with new housing definitions that do not require vital wrap-around services as a condition of residency.


If homeless individuals need services to stabilize and be successful, why aren't all related housing uses required to provide services as a condition of residency, and provide a continuum of care?


> Shelters = residential care use = services required as a condition of residency = allowed in all neighborhoods > SOS camps = special unlisted use by Zoning Administrator Determination, similar to congregate living use = no services required as a condition of residency = allowed in all neighborhoods > Tiny homes = congregate living use = no services required as a condition of residency = allowed in multi-unit zones adjacent to single family residences
> Transitional/supportive housing = household use (like yours) = no services required as a condition of residency = allowed in multi-unit zones adjacent to single family residences

Current homeless spending

Researchers at the Common Sense Institute and the University of Colorado recently released a report which stated that Denver spends between $42,000 and $104,000 each year per person experiencing homelessness.That's more than an average apartment costs per year. It's more than twice what is spent to educate our children.


Did you know about the homelessness budget, new housing definitions, and the impacts to your neighborhood? Did your Councilperson explain the details?


Details matter. VOTE YES ON 2F!

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