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Denver finally puts a price tag on Mayor Mike Johnston's homelessness initiative

Joe Rubino, The Denver Post on

Published in News & Features

Denver housing officials finally have zeroed in on how much they expect Mayor Mike Johnston’s All In Mile High homelessness initiative to cost the city on an ongoing basis: $57.5 million a year.

It’s taken the Johnston administration almost a year to arrive at that budget estimate — which doesn’t include one-time start-up costs — much to the chagrin of some City Council members.

“If we serve 2,000 people, which is what we anticipate serving, that is about a per-person cost of $28,750 per person. And this includes services, the temporary housing (and) the wraparound supports,” Jamie Rife, executive director of the city’s Department of Housing Stability, told City Council members during a committee meeting Tuesday.

The mayor launched his homelessness initiative — then called House 1,000 — on his second day in office on July 18. So far, All In Mile High has moved more than 1,560 people off the streets and into at least temporary shelter, according to city data, though 165 of those people have since returned to homelessness.

Less than 24 hours before Rife’s presentation, council members Stacie Gilmore and Amanda Sawyer voted against a $5 million contract with a company that has been enlisted to move people directly off the streets and into rented apartments.

That contract passed, but not before Sawyer and Gilmore blasted the administration for what they described as a lack of financial transparency around the All In Mile High initiative.

Even during Tuesday’s presentation, Sawyer — who chairs the council’s Finance and Governance Committee — grew impatient with how administration officials presented the numbers.

By her math, Denver is on pace to spend close to $155 million on the program before the end of the year. Stephanie Adams, the city’s deputy chief financial officer, told Sawyer she believes the total is slightly lower, but acknowledged the councilwoman’s estimate was close.

“The total is not listed anywhere and that’s what I’m asking about,” Sawyer said.

After the meeting, city officials confirmed to The Denver Post that, since the launch of All In Mile High last July, Denver had spent $56.3 million as of last month, which included $41.8 million in one-time costs and $14.5 million in recurring costs.

By the end of this year, the city estimates it will have spent an additional $46.7 million on recurring costs to the program and $51.8 million more in one-time costs.

All told, Denver is projecting it will have spent $154.8 million on the mayor’s homelessness initiative by the end of 2024.

 

The city’s annual budget is about $4 billion.

A majority of this year’s one-time costs for the homelessness program — 86% — will be covered by federal dollars granted to the city, much of it related to COVID-19 pandemic support, according to Tuesday’s presentation.

City leaders are still hunting for money to pay for all of the program’s costs his year.

The committee on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to three bills that combined would make another $17 million available for All In Mile High by moving federal dollars related to the pandemic around on city ledgers.

Those dollars are needed to pay for unexpected costs, including more security personnel and video equipment, and greater than expected repairs and maintenance costs at some of the shelters, city budget manager Rachel Bardin said.

The three bills will now move on for consideration by the whole council.

As for how Denver intends to pay for the program’s estimated $57.5 million cost next year, Adams said city officials are still working on specifics.

Denver still has access to some one-time funds, Adams said. Thanks to voters, the city also has a dedicated homelessness resolution fund powered by a 0.25% sales tax. The city’s housing department mapped out spending for $36.7 million from that fund in 2022.

“I promise you that in fall, when we bring you the 2025 budget, we will explain not only how we’re addressing some of the needs of All In Mile High, but of course a plethora of very important programs we have,” Adams told council members Tuesday.

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©2024 MediaNews Group, Inc. Visit at denverpost.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

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