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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyApril 4, 20184min434

An advocacy group’s plans for a sprawling Lakewood facility to help house those experiencing homelessness took a blow late last week.

Details are sparse, but the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rejected the plans after reportedly finding issues with advocacy group Colorado Coalition for the Homeless’ (CCH) financing proposal, Westword reports. The advocacy and homeless-services group does plan to appeal.

CCH recently released preliminary plans for the 59-acre site near the Denver Federal Center in Lakewood, which could include a solar-powered campus with trailers, geodesic domes and tents as an initial build-out, eventually adding some 600 affordable and supportive housing units.

In a statement, CCH said it didn’t receive any guidance from HHS on a “reasonable plan to finance the approved program” so it submitted the best proposal it could craft.

“We are very disappointed by the HHS decision to reject the financing plan for the Federal Center Property, and believe HHS erred in its decision based on the law and the facts,” the group said in a statement. “We will immediately appeal to HHS and if we do not get a positive response, we will likely be going back to court to protect the rights of people experiencing homelessness in Lakewood and Jefferson County.”

Conversely, Lakewood officials are thrilled at the news, the Lakewood Sentinel reports. Lakewood Mayor Adam Paul took to social media to share news of the denial he received from the U.S. General Services Administration, the government’s landlord. The GSA appears poised to launch a new auction for the land April 2, according to its website.

“Its [sic] important to note that the denial of the CCH’s proposal does not deny the fact that we have homeless in our community,” Paul wrote in a Facebook post. “Let’s use this experience to start the conversation of how we come together as neighbors, as a city, as a county to find meaningful solutions to help those in need.”

CCH’s plans for the Lakewood site have vexed Lakewood officials and some residents who argued the advocacy group needs to find a more appropriate setting for its proposed homeless campus, stretch city resources like police thin and that it could attract riff-raff to the city.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) declared the Lakewood land suitable for use by the homeless after CCH took the federal government to court and won last fall.


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyMarch 12, 20184min2020

It’s been the resounding message from city officials and vocal residents in Lakewood: A 59-acre site near the Denver Federal Center in Lakewood is a poor choice for a large-scale homeless facility.

The sentiment is also the upshot of a new guest commentary from Lakewood City Councilman Charley Able appearing in the Denver Post on Friday.

Earlier this month, the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless revealed its preliminary plans for the Lakewood parcel, which could include a solar-powered campus with trailers, geodesic domes and tents as an initial build-out, eventually adding some 600 affordable and supportive housing units.

Lakewood officials have been vocal about their opposition and some residents expressed concerns about the campus attracting riffraff to the city, including one resident characterizing it as building a ghetto in the city.

In the commentary piece, Able notes while Lakewood agrees there is a need for homeless services, the city has a responsibility to the community as a whole. Sharing a sentiment from Councilwoman Ramey Johnson, he writes the city is working with CCH to find a “more appropriate setting.”

“The Lakewood City Council is united in opposing the coalition’s plans for the Federal Center site because 59 acres is too large a parcel for the coalition to properly develop and manage,” Able writes. “The concentration of housing for the homeless on the site could quickly strain resources such as police and fire protection as well as overwhelming nearby schools and services for others in need of a helping hand.”

“It also would nullify seven years of community input into our comprehensive plan,” Able continues.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) declared the Lakewood land suitable for use by the homeless after CCH took the federal government to court and won last fall. As part of the process of taking ownership of the site, CCH must provide its financing plans for the $120 million project to HUD by March 9.

Read Able’s full piece here.


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyFebruary 15, 20183min1499

Lakewood is wary of a homeless advocacy group’s plans for a 59-acre site near the Denver Federal Center in Lakewood.

Earlier this month, the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless revealed its preliminary plans for the Lakewood parcel, which could include a solar-powered campus with trailers, geodesic domes and tents as an initial build-out, eventually adding some 600 affordable and supportive housing units.

City officials like Councilwoman Ramey Johnson have said they aren’t on board with the proposed use of the parcel. And more recently, we learned some Lakewood residents have notions about what CCH’s plan for housing and services for those experiencing homelessness would do to the neighborhood.

The Lakewood Sentinel’s Clarke Reader has been following the developments surrounding the Federal Center parcel and detailed CCH’s first public hearing last week:

“You’re going to bring in mentally ill people, drug addicts and who knows what else, all of whom have been chased out of Denver,” said resident Jerry Wilson. “When is enough enough?”

The coalition held the meeting as part of the application process to take ownership of the property.

“With housing prices going through the roof in the Denver area, we’re seeing more and more people becoming homeless, especially families. For many, this is their first time experiencing it,” John Parvensky, the coalition’s president and CEO, said at the beginning of the meeting. “According to Jeffco schools, there are as many 2,700 homeless students in the school district, and we want to help all these people find a stable place to stay.”

Most of the speakers who opposed the proposal — many vehemently so — were less concerned about families than about homeless from other counties and cities gathering in one place in the middle of Lakewood. One speaker called it building a ghetto in the city.

Reader goes on to note other resident concerns about CCH’s plans including an increase in crime and the scale of the project.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) declared the Lakewood land suitable for use by the homeless after CCH took the federal government to court and won last fall. As part of the process of taking ownership of the site, CCH must provide its financing plans for the $120 million project to HUD by March 9.


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyFebruary 5, 20183min802

An advocacy group has been given the initial OK from the federal government for its plan to construct housing and provide services for those experiencing homelessness in Lakewood.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) approved an initial application from the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless late last month, the Lakewood Sentinel reports. CCH noted in the application it will use the 59-acre site near the Denver Federal Center in Lakewood to house and provide services for the homeless. Next on the docket, CCH must provide its financing plans for the $120 million project by March 9.

While final plans aren’t yet concrete, a Denverite report noted how CCH hopes to open with low-income housing options on a scale the Denver area hasn’t seen before. The site will start out with some trailers and tents, but could eventually offer some 600 affordable and supportive housing units. The initial build out could include a solar-powered campus, with “trailers, geodesic domes and large, insulated tents on a large tract of federal land.”

The project has sparked a debate in Lakewood, with some neighbors wary, but as the Sentinel notes, the city has no power since the site is federally-owned land.

The U.S. General Services Administration  — the government’s landlord — had planned to sell the land in an auction in July but instead found itself in a federal court, which halted the auction, after the homeless coalition filed a formal objection.

CCH won the court battle in late September after the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) declared the Lakewood land suitable for use by the homeless.

The coalition argued letting the sale proceed as planned effectively would sidestep a 1987 law that requires the agency to make the land available for serving the homeless.


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyJanuary 16, 20182min345

Denver recently rolled out a new program to aid those facing a “housing crisis.”

Late last week, Denver City Council members took an unconventional extra step in launching an effort to provide legal aid to Denverites facing eviction. Ten council members pooled money totaling $123,600 in donations from office budgets and personal contributions to help get an eviction legal defense program off the ground.

“The Housing Crisis is affecting people lives daily,” Denver City Council President Albus Brooks said in a post of Facebook. “Denver City Council led by members Robin Kniech and Paul Kashmann (supported by 8 others) have initiated an Eviction Assistance pilot program. We have raised over $100K to help over 80 individuals. We hope to evaluate and expand the program in the future.”

Officials say the program will be coordinated by Colorado Legal Services, which has decades of experience in eviction defense and will make use of volunteer lawyers and make other referrals. The program is expected to start in March or April.

During an office budget reconciliation process — where officials decide how to allocate unspent money and plan for 2018 — the council members decided upon the innovative funding. As the council members explain in a statement, “City Council rules permit donations to non-profit organizations for public purposes — in this case preventing displacement and homelessness, which costs the city much more in public assistance than keeping a family housed.”

Underscoring the need for the defense program, the council members pointed to research by the Colorado Center on Law and Policy and the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless that found a significant gap between the level of legal representation afforded tenants and that which is available to landlords. While tenants are represented by an attorney in only 1 to 3 percent of the cases involving major landlords, landlords are represented in virtually 100 percent of those same cases.


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirOctober 25, 20174min1087

 

U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson, center, flanked on the right by Colorado Coalition for the Homeless President and CEO John Parvensky, and on the left by coalition Medical Director Joe Ladika. (Photo courtesy Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.)

We took note the other day of U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson’s two-day stopover in Denver this week to address a meeting of mortgage bankers and, per the protocols of his job, to tour publicly assisted housing in the area. Included was a visit to the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, starting with its Stout Street Clinic.

U.S. Housing Secretary Ben Carson on tour at the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless. (Photo courtesy Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.)

Turns out, we didn’t have to cover the occasion; coalition staff recounted their face time with the housing secretary — a former presidential candidate, renowned neurosurgeon and bestselling author — in a press release that included photos. It’s as if ColoradoPolitics.com had its own correspondent on the scene and, OK, the pictures came out even better than some of ours do (ouch):

He was greeted by the Coalition’s President and CEO John Parvensky and Medical Director Joe Ladika who gave the Secretary an inside look at integrated housing and healthcare. Secretary Carson called the health center “state-of-the-art” noting updated equipment and CCH’s model of care.

His tour included visits to the medical, dental, vision, pharmacy and mental health services departments, all housed under one roof. He was pleased with the health center, saying it was a “simple gift often taken for granted.” As a doctor himself, he asked important questions about tuberculosis testing (which the health center offers daily), and costs of health services versus access to emergency services.

Last stop was to the Renaissance Stout Street Lofts, 78 units of permanent supportive housing which sit above the Stout Street Health Center and are partially funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. An integrated part of the construction, the Lofts offer housing for people experiencing homelessness with close access to the health center. Secretary Carson was pleased with the integration of health services and housing saying, “This bolsters my argument that we can eradicate homelessness. We have the will and know how.”

Great follow-up coverage by the coalition staff; thanks, folks! You’re hired.


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyOctober 6, 20174min1501

A homeless advocacy coalition took it to the federal government and won. But, it may be more of a lesson in government accountability than David versus Goliath.

The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless won a court battle late last month after the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) finally declared a 59-acre Lakewood parcel near the Denver Federal Center suitable for use by the homeless.

The U.S. General Services Administration  — the government’s landlord — had planned to sell the land in an auction in July, but instead found itself in a federal court, which halted the auction, after the homeless coalition filed a formal objection. The coalition argued letting the sale proceed as planned effectively would sidestep a 1987 law that requires the agency to make the land available for serving the homeless.

HUD announced the site was suitable for homeless housing in a Sept. 25 letter, but is expected to formally label the land as such on Friday, according to the Lakewood Sentinel. Then the next step is for the coalition, or other homeless organizations, to formally declare to the Department of Health and Human Services their interest in the parcel and request the site be transferred to them.

“CCH intends to request that the site be transferred to CCH to provide a range of supportive housing, health, employment, and other supportive services for homeless families and individuals in Lakewood and throughout the Metro Denver area,” the coalition said in a press statement.

A July coalition press release labeled the proposed auction as riven with confusion, unanswered questions and possibly conflicting decisions by the federal agencies involved. HUD had initially declared the site “unsuitable for use to assist the homeless,” while GSA determined that it was more than suitable for high-end residential and commercial development, the coalition said.

“As homelessness and the lack of affordable housing are increasing significantly throughout Jefferson County and the metro Denver area, we believe that this site will help us make a dent in our commitment to reduce and end homelessness,” John Parvensky, CEO and President of CCH, said following the recent court judgement. “We look forward to working with local partners, government entities, elected officials, and the community to make sure we make the very best use of the site in our continued effort to provide lasting solutions for homeless and at-risk families.”

As of Sept. 28, there were seven bids on the land, with the highest offer reaching $6 million, the Lakewood Sentinel reports.


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirAugust 10, 20175min284

Whatever the best use might be for some surplus land the government is hoping to auction off at the Federal Center in Lakewood, you’ve got to give due credit to the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless for its dogged pursuit of the 59-acre parcel. And it looks like the nonprofit might prevail in its quest.

As we previously noted here, the coalition dragged the U.S. General Services Administration  — the government’s landlord — to court last month in an effort to stop the sale. The coalition maintains letting the sale proceed as planned effectively would sidestep a 1987 law that requires the agency to make the land available for serving the homeless. A coalition press release at the time suggested the proposed auction had been riven by confusion, unanswered questions and possibly conflicting decisions by the federal agencies involved.  Coalition President John Parvensky was  quoted:

“It continues to confound us that (the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) could have determined that the Federal Center Station property, located adjacent to the RTD station and St. Anthony’s Hospital, was ‘unsuitable for use to assist the homeless’, while GSA determined that it was more than suitable for high end residential and commercial development. …”

On July 28, a federal judge granted the coalition’s motion for a temporary restraining order halting the sale, finding, as the coalition recounted, “substantial likelihood of success on the merits” of proving that “HUD’s unsuitability determination was arbitrary and capricious and therefore in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act.”

This week, the judge issued a new order under which HUD will reopen and review its earlier determination of “unsuitability” of the property for use for homeless assistance. From the coalition’s latest press statement issued Wednesday:

… HUD has agreed to provide a new determination of suitability within 30 days of receiving information from GSA and (the coalition).  HUD will have until September 14, 2017, to reconsider its initial determination of unsuitability and issue a written notice of its decision to the (coalition) and GSA.

Within hours of the issuance of the new Order, GSA provided a letter to HUD and the Coalition identifying “information that could be pertinent to HUD’s reconsideration of its determination of unsuitability of the Federal Center site.”  CCH is reviewing this information and will provide its recommendation to HUD by August 15, 2017.

The coalition’s plans for the parcel?

If HUD determines that the property is suitable for use to assist the homeless, the coalition intends to request that the site be transferred to (the coalition) to provide a range of supportive housing, health, employment, and other supportive services for homeless families and individuals in Lakewood and throughout the Metro Denver area.

Is that preferable to high-end residential and commercial development? That call seems to have been made by Congress when it passed the 1987 law. In any event, the coalition’s effort to demand answers from the government, and to ensure the agencies in question are heeding the law, would seem to be a stride toward greater government accountability.


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirJuly 28, 20173min401

It isn’t exactly politics per se, but the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless‘s ongoing joust with the federal government — over a parcel of surplus land in the Federal Center in Lakewood — raises questions about responsive government. Or, the lack thereof.

The news this week is that the U.S. General Services Administration is going to delay taking bids in an auction of the land in the face of a lawsuit by the coalition that alleges the sale would break the law. The coalition had sought an injunction against the sale earlier this week, contending a 1987 law “requires federal agencies to identify and make available surplus federal property, such as buildings and land, for use by states, local governments, and nonprofit agencies to assist homeless people.”

A follow-up press statement by the coalition Thursday, announcing the land sale’s delay, suggests the sale has been riven by confusion, unanswered questions and possibly conflicting decisions by federal agencies (like that would be a first):

“This is a great first step in stopping the sale of the property to commercial interests,” said John Parvensky, President and CEO of CCH.  “It continues to confound us that HUD could have determined that the Federal Center Station property, located adjacent to the RTD station and St. Anthony’s Hospital, was ‘unsuitable for use to assist the homeless’, while GSA determined that it was more than suitable for high end residential and commercial development.  We hope that this pause will give all parties the time to correct this potential injustice, and make this property available for development of supportive housing and services needed by a growing homeless population in Lakewood and throughout the Metro Denver Area”.

The Denver Business Journal’s Molly Armbrister meanwhile reports:

The GSA did not respond to a request for comment Thursday, but on Wednesday declined to comment, citing an ongoing investigation.

In other words, they have to figure out what’s going on before they can tell the rest of us.