DENVER — Denver City Council on Monday voted 10-3 to extend Mayor Mike Johnston's emergency declaration on homelessness.
The month-long extension gives city and county officials more resources to combat the issue. It also allows the city, along with residents and businesses, to apply for state and federal government funding.
The three "no" votes came from Councilmembers Flor Alvidrez, Stacie Gilmore and Amanda Sawyer.
While the council was in its Monday meeting, more than a dozen people were protesting the extension of the emergency declaration outside. The protest was organized by Housekeys Action Network Denver.
Advocate V Reeves expressed frustration with several parts of the mayor's current plan.
“There are camping ban sweeps that are happening constantly. You have police harassment happening. You have enforcers going out there in the form of those street enforcement teams, who are telling people — even immediately after a sweep — that they still can't stay there and they have to keep moving along," said Reeves. “We're supposed to have different types of protections offered and resources offered to people to preemptively prevent the need for sweeping. They were supposed to have clinicians coming and visiting. They were supposed to have access to housing professionals.”
Reeves also takes issue with the mayor's plan to house 1,000 unhoused residents by the end of the year because they do not believe the recording of the data is accurate or the goal is attainable.
"[Johnston] thinks that the public doesn't know the difference between housing and sheltering," said Reeves. “He has said that if somebody is indoors, as in even in a shelter for 14 days, he is counting that in the House1000 dashboard. And we know this is all politics. It's incredibly frustrating to think that he is setting people up for failure by putting them through this without any of the protections, without the services needed, without any accountability to the providers of the different sites, and claim that he has housed them.”
Reeves agrees that homelessness is an emergency in Denver, but does not believe the funding is being used properly to address the issue.
"I want the funding to actually have power behind it," said Reeves. "I want it to be realistic. I want it to be a positive move in the direction that unhoused people have been telling us we needed ever since the beginning.”
Denver7 requested an interview with the mayor's office about the issues raised at the protest. The mayor's office declined the opportunity and issued a statement saying it is "focusing on the most vulnerable populations across the city."
Denver knows this is an emergency. That is why Mayor Johnston remains committed to his plan to get 1000 people off the streets and into hotels, micro-communities and leased apartment units. We are focusing on the most vulnerable populations across the city, knowing that the safety risks are highest for those currently living unsheltered in encampments, especially with winter approaching.
Eric Ahlenius attended the protest and Monday's city council meeting. He said he experienced homelessness off and on for anywhere from eight to 10 years. He is currently in permanent housing and starts a new job on Tuesday.
Ahlenius said he met Johnston last year and discussed his journey with the mayor. Ahlenius supports the funding for transitional housing that the mayor's administration works to provide, and believes it needs to be given time to work.
“I believe everything that [the protestors] are saying is correct, but I think it's misdirected. It's more toward the system that was, that didn't work," said Ahlenius. “It's worked for me."
During Monday's city council meeting, public comment lasted longer than the scheduled time period. Three councilmembers stayed to listen to the people who were signed up to speak but did not yet have the chance.
Councilmembers Shontel M. Lewis, Sarah Parady and Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez stayed for almost an hour after public comment had officially wrapped to hear what the rest of the group had to say. Many people inside the council meeting had also been protesting outside.