The city and county of Broomfield is now looking toward subsidizing hotel rooms to address homelessness.
Broomfield City Council convened Monday evening for a study session about homelessness. The meeting initially was intended to outline potential locations in Broomfield for individuals to safely and legally camp short-term, as the Council directed at its June 29 study session discussion about homelessness.
The Monday evening council memo listed four potential options: 1.89 acres at 3200 Industrial Lane; 3.95 acres of the Hoopes Property on 144th Avenue; 0.28 acres at Allison Street and West 119th Avenue; and 3.25 acres at 11255 Wadsworth Blvd.
The Council received more than 200 emails from residents about the potential locations and the council chamber had standing-room only Monday evening with residents ready to voice their opinions.
But at the start of the study session on homelessness, City and County Manager Jennifer Hoffman announced a last-minute change.
City and county staff had identified an alternative proposal in the time between the initial memo’s release Friday and 6 p.m. Monday. Instead of a proposal to spend an estimated $400,000 to $500,000 on installing 15 tents along with a generator, lighting, tables and chairs and other supplies for a safe camping space, the money would go toward 15 hotel rooms in town with wrap-around service designed to help individuals find permanent housing, Hoffman said.
There is a process of four steps Broomfield officers take when responding to individuals camping in open space, starting with engagement, reengagement, then a summons is issued if necessary and finally, the individual is actually moved if they did not comply with the previous three steps. The issue of where officers would take individuals if they were told to move became the crux of the June 29 study session, which led to the potential of the safe camping space.
Under the new proposal, an unnamed area-hotel has agreed to secure a block of rooms for nine months, Hoffman said. There would be a paid manager on site, as well as a room where individuals could go for job opportunities and physical and mental health.
There would be three rooms available through the initial phase, funded by American Rescue Plan Act dollars. The rooms would allow police to enforce the no-camping ordinance and minimize the risks of being sued, a presentation read. The second part of the first phase would be to expand the emergency rental assistance program in response to the eviction moratorium’s July 31 expiration.
Through the proposed second phase, the program would increase to its 15-room maximum. City and county staff are continuing to work through the details, but the initial nine-month long plan is estimated to help individuals get housing and stay housed. Hoffman noted the combined roughly 300 permanently affordable housing units that will be built in Broomfield in the next 18 months as a key piece to the housing puzzle.
In total, the nine-month program is estimated to cost $500,000.
Members of City Council said they appreciated the pivot, though they acknowledged it would take time to digest the new information. Councilwoman Kimberly Groom said the meeting should have been canceled or postponed to allow for time to process all of the material.
Ultimately, the Council voted unanimously to direct staff to continue to pursue the hotel voucher alternative.
“This is absolutely not disappointing news,” Councilman William Lindstedt said. “This is a much more attainable plan than what we had, a much more financially responsible plan than what we had … The eviction moratorium is up at the end of this month, and the problem’s only going to get more visible.”
Broomfield Police Chief Gary Creager said it had been determined that initially funding the three rooms should be sufficient in combatting the tent encampments. He said officers would be able to offer the individuals the hotel room or the option, alternatively, to leave Broomfield.
“We have to give them an option, and if they decline they’ve made the choice,” Creager said.
While the number of individuals experiencing homelessness in Broomfield is almost impossible to track — between people couch surfing, living with a friend or living in a car — Creager said at the June 29 meeting that Broomfield officers assigned to the issue do know each unhoused person by name.
“The chronically unhoused is a very, very, very, very, very small part of our population,” Hoffman emphasized. “The initial program is not for them.”
The hotel rooms would not be occupied by the same 15 people. Hoffman said staff estimates within six to eight weeks those staying would be able to move on to other housing.
Councilwoman Elizabeth Law-Evans said she wanted to ensure the hotel rooms would not allow drugs, alcohol or weapons and have a way to screen for abuse. She also suggested the idea of requiring one hour of community service a day for the tenants, “to be able to give back for all of those in the community at large for this huge effort monetarily and in terms of people hours being put forth,” she said.
Councilwoman Laurie Anderson reemphasized concerns she brought up at the previous study session of Broomfield becoming a magnet for unhoused individuals. She also was curious whether there was a way to ensure the hotel rooms were only given to individuals with ties to Broomfield.
Health and Human Services Director Dan Casey explained having a connection to Broomfield is one of the requirements for Code Blue, the city and county’s program that offered hotel vouchers last winter during below-freezing temperatures.
The number of audience members trickled down as the meeting progressed and was down to fewer than 20 by 8 p.m. Councilwoman Jean Lim said during the break that she saw several emails from residents who were concerned about the initial memo about the short-term camps and offered general support of the new plan.
A follow-up study session will be Sept. 7 to review a more detailed, comprehensive look at the approach, and a Telephone Town Hall is scheduled Sept. 16, suggested by Law-Evans, to allow for adequate community input. The finalized funding and approach will be discussed in an October council meeting. Residents are invited to complete a survey about the issue and submit feedback through Broomfield Voice, broomfieldvoice.com/homelessness.