DENVER – Denver is opening a large, temporary homeless shelter and making about 300 hotel rooms available to homeless people who need to be isolated because of the coronavirus, moves the mayor said Tuesday are essential to protecting the whole community.
About 250 members of the Colorado National Guard are taking over staffing at the city’s existing homeless shelters, allowing the city to open an additional shelter for 600 men at the National Western Complex on Thursday, Mayor Michael Hancock said.
The new shelter, staffed by the Denver Rescue Mission and doctors from a homeless health clinic, will provide about 50 square feet for every person. It will also make it easier for people staying at the other shelters to practice social distancing, which has not previously been feasible, officials said.
The city currently has 120 hotel rooms available for homeless people who have tested positive for COVID-19, are awaiting test results or are more vulnerable to the disease. The city reached a deal to add 151 rooms Monday that still must be approved by city council. On Monday night, 97 of the rooms were occupied. The city also has 48 bed supplemental shelter for anyone with flu or cold symptoms, Hancock said.
The site of the new shelter is the home of Denver’s annual stock show and rodeo, which has been used for temporary housing in the past, including for National Guard members working at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.
The city also hopes to open another shelter for up to 300 women at the Denver Coliseum.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.