City council unsure how much mayor’s homeless plan actually costs

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Very little public information has been released about how much House1000 projects are costing in Denver.

DENVER — Even some of the people in charge of approving Denver’s spending say they have no idea how much Mayor Mike Johnston’s quest to end homelessness costs. Now, some on city council say they can’t get straight answers after asking for budget breakdowns.

In a room where hundreds of millions of dollars are approved for spending every year, there’s one project, Councilmember Stacie Gilmore says, where the cost is unknown to her.

“I don’t have any of that information,” said Gilmore, who serves on Denver’s Safety, Housing, Education & Homelessness Committee. “I can’t tell you what the personnel costs are. I can’t tell you what the janitorial costs are. I can’t tell you any of that.”

It’s not because she hasn’t asked. She has, many times. Even so, Gilmore says she can’t get an answer about how much money the city has spent on the mayor’s House1000 homelessness initiative. The goal of the project that Johnston campaigned on is to move people experiencing homelessness into shelters and eventually permanent housing. 

“We all have responsibility to the voters and to the taxpayers of Denver to share this information with them,” Gilmore said. “Good, better or worse, we need to have these conversations.”

9NEWS found city council has approved more than $110 million to buy hotels, contract providers, and house the homeless. Even though that’s tens of millions of dollars over the initial budget presented by the mayor in 2023 and 2024, the mayor’s office is asking everyone to trust them that House1000 is not over budget. 

Even the former chair of the committee in charge of homelessness has seen no proof that statement is true or false.

“You just can’t take it at somebody’s word unfortunately when it’s hundreds of millions of dollars that we’re potentially talking about here,” Gilmore said. “What I would want to see is a spreadsheet that has what our monthly spend is for each facility that we’re paying for, what the robust services are. I want it line itemed out.”

Difficulties keeping track of spending on homelessness is nothing new in Denver. Back in 2022, under former Mayor Michael Hancock, an audit found Denver did not have a formal process for tracking costs related to homeless encampments. Under the Johnston administration, city councilmembers, journalists, and the public don’t seem to know exactly how much money is being spent.

“The taxpayers are underwriting this whole initiative, and I want to be able to answer questions that they might have,” Gilmore said. 

On Wednesday, Gilmore and the rest of the Safety, Housing and Homelessness Committee will hear from the mayor’s office on exactly how much money it has spent on House1000. The question that hasn’t been answered is how many of those contracts were pushed off to this year and how much money the city will spend in 2024.

“Some of the costs anticipated for 2023 will show up in 2024, such as the purchase of the Best Western at 4595 Quebec, which posted to the city’s financial system of record in February 2024,” the mayor’s office told 9NEWS in a statement on Monday. “Additionally, the initial 2023 cost estimates included operating costs for hotels and micro-communities for several months of 2023. Because these activities really did not ramp up until November-December 2023, these costs also were much less in 2023 than originally anticipated. We would expect to see these expenses show up in 2024 spending instead.”

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City council unsure how much mayor’s homeless plan actually costs

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