Homeless people line to get in for the night at Denver Rescue Mission on April 1, 2014.
Denver has launched two pilot programs to provide storage units for the city’s homeless in what it says is an effort to make it easier for people living on the streets to access social services through safe spaces to keep their belongings.
A photo of one of the large item storage lockers installed in downtown Denver.
Ten “large item” storage lockers have already been installed along Lawrence Street and Park Avenue West, and 200 more medium and small storage units are set to be offered through the St. Francis Center in June.
The large units are 49 inches high, 30 inches wide and 74.5 inches long. The smaller ones are 2 feet by 2 feet by 3 feet.
“A person living without a home currently has few options to safely store their personal belongings,” Erik Soliván, Denver Office of Housing And Opportunities for People Everywhere director, said in a written statement. “Those experiencing homelessness have told us that not having a place where they can safely store their belongings can be barrier to them obtaining a good job, shelter at night and good health. We listened, and we’re bringing that barrier down.”
The city says the storage programs are part of the office of housing and opportunities’ 30 short-term action items for 2017, which were unveiled Friday at the city’s third annual Denver Housing Summit. The programs were announced in a news release Tuesday.
Of the 10 large-item units, launched earlier this month as part of the first pilot project, six people have permits with four additional people awaiting permits. People experiencing homelessness who are accessing jobs, health services and shelter may use the units — built at a cost of $3,000 each — for 30 days with the option to extend use of the unit to 60 days.
Denver Public Works will administer the program, and those seeking to use the units must provide a shelter identification and be able to demonstrate their engagement in workforce training or employment or health services. Any misuse will lead officials to revoke permits for the units.
The second project, an expansion of short-term storage in partnership with St. Francis Center, launches smaller storage spaces June 1 at the organization’s employment center for a 30-day period. The project cost about $130,000 to start up and has a yearly cost of roughly $99,000.
“Denver Rescue Mission serves about 1,000 people a day at our Lawrence Street Community Center and overnight shelter, but our guests tell us that (not) having a safe place to store large items can prevent people from accessing even our most basic services,” Brad Meuli, Denver Rescue Mission president and CEO, said in a statement. “By providing these short-term large item storage units, this pilot project has the potential to make a significant impact not just for those we serve, but also for the neighborhood.”
Ray Lyall, a member Denver Homeless Out Loud, said his organization worked with the city on the storage projects but is disappointed more units aren’t being offered. He also took issue with the requirements that homeless people must meet to use the units.
“We’re not really thrilled with it,” Lyall said. “But it’s a good start.”
Julie Smith, a Denver Human Services spokeswoman, said the pilot projects are meant to open the door for more growth.
“We are delivering on the promise that we would come up with a way to address this issue,” Smith said. “Could it be bigger? Sure. But it’s a pilot. We want to see how it’s working. We want to really study on a small scale how the program works before we expand it to anything larger.”
Larry Smith, CEO of Catholic Charities of Denver, said in a statement that his organization supports the project and called it “one small way we can make a big impact.”