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Denver police and first responders have visited hotel shelters hundreds of times. Are they safer than the street?

Joe Rubino, The Denver Post on

Published in News & Features

He invites critics to come see how the shelter operates for themselves.

“You’re welcome to be a short-term resident in one of our facilities and see firsthand that people are treated with dignity — people are treated with love, with care,” he said. “And yes, overarchingly, people are safer in our facilities than on the streets.”

Still, officials with the city and the Salvation Army acknowledged that The Aspen’s multiple entrances and exits had posed a known safety risk at the facility.

The mayor’s office expected the nonprofit to hire private security to address that problem, according to Cole Chandler, Johnston’s top homelessness adviser. Last month, the two partners began to have discussions about the city stepping in to take the lead on that missing piece, Chandler said.

The double homicide happened before those steps could be taken.

In the days after the shooting, the city brought in a security firm and placed guards at all seven of the building’s exterior doors, closing six of them entirely to create a single point of entry and exit. The administration also began requiring residents to carry identification badges to come in the building’s front door, installed metal detectors there and added more security cameras in the corridors.


“Now we know (that) who’s coming in the building is our neighbors,” said Eugene Braziel, 65, a resident since the hotel shelter opened. “We don’t have to worry about intruders. They can’t come in the doors.”

He and Brittany Goodrich arrived at the shelter on Dec. 7. The couple had been spending cold winter nights in a tent as part of a multiblock encampment that circled the downtown post office at 20th and Curtis streets last year.

They said during The Post’s visit to the shelter last week that they were trying to make the most of the opportunities afforded by the stability of a private hotel room to call their own. Both are working to obtain replacement birth certificates. They said they hoped to play an active role in finding suitable permanent housing, not to have it delivered to them.

And Braziel said he was looking forward to starting an addiction treatment class to help him in his struggle with alcohol. Goodrich, 32, also hoped to receive support for alcohol after going through a program for opioid use that helped her, though she said widespread substance use among other residents had made her sobriety goals more challenging.


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