Micro-community provides shelter from winter storm

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People living at a homeless encampment off of Colfax Avenue moved into the La Paz Micro-Community Tuesday, just days before a winter storm blasted Colorado.

DENVER — Just days before a winter storm dumped nearly a foot of snow on the Denver metro, the city opened its newest micro-community in the Overland neighborhood.

“La Paz,” operated by the Colorado Village Collaborative (CVC), is a part of Mayor Mike Johnston’s “All In Mile High” initiative. His goal is to house 2,000 people experiencing homelessness in Denver by the end of the year.

The community opened for intake on Tuesday, March 12. With inclement weather around the corner, CVC staff said the option to trade in a tent for a tiny home was well-timed.

“There was one conversation that I particularly had along those lines we’re just like, great, great timing,” Hannah Dew, CVC senior manager for micro-communities, said.

Dew said the city’s Department of Housing Stability (HOST) targeted outreach for the site. According to the mayor’s office, more than 100 people were identified living near Umatilla Street and West Colfax Avenue and encouraged to move to the site.

“The initial intake day, there were 47 invited, but 39 are filled now,” Dew explained. “We’re waiting on others to arrive and they have a week to arrive. And then we have 13 units that there was some further construction that needed to happen on those. And then once those are available, then we’re connecting with HOST again, to see what the next steps are like, the next encampment, the next people, that would be slotted for intake, and then probably pick another day to do more intake.”

Once fully constructed, La Paz will offer 60 tiny homes for those in need. In addition to shelter, the transitional housing offers kitchen services, restrooms, kitchens and mental health resources.

Our goal is to provide that place of stability, treat people with dignity and respect, remind people of their value, that you are a valuable person, and we’re here, we’re here for you to help you meet whatever goals that you have for yourself,” Dew said.

Dew said in addition to a bus, provided by HOST, that dropped people off at the site, people funneled in throughout the day Tuesday.

I’m sure the storm helped people to, like, make their way a little bit quicker,” Dew said. “Because I mean, nobody wants to be out in that, especially as crazy as it was.”

After snow stopped falling, people were able to take care of themselves in ways they couldn’t before.

“There was like a whole community effort of shoveling the site, in like shoveling their areas, and after shoveling and shoveling, shoveling, shoveling just like everybody else,” Dew said. “And then now, like being able to utilize laundry for things that have gotten wet, and like washing and drying, and all that, after a storm that we all are now trying to, like, get things sorted. So yes, people are, are actively doing all of that, and super thankful for it for sure.”

Dew said there isn’t a set timeline for when people need to exit the housing, so for if and when the next storm rolls into Denver, at least 60 people will be able to rely on La Paz.

According to the All In Mile High dashboard, the average stay for a person staying in a Denver hotel or micro-community is 78 days before moving into permanent housing.

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Micro-community provides shelter from winter storm

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