Denver’s migrant crisis costs the city $3 million in December


Denver officials estimate that once all outstanding costs are accounted for, the total bill for providing shelter for the thousands of migrants who have arrived in the city from the southern border in December will be $3 million.

At the rate at which the migrants continue to arrive — another 166 came Thursday night into Friday bringing the total number of arrivals since Dec. 9 to nearly 3,000 people, according to the latest city update — there is little reason to believe those costs will shrink significantly in the new year.

“Right now, we’re continuing the posture we are in through the end of January. And that’s what we are planning for as a city,” said Mikayla Ortega, a spokeswoman for the city’s emergency management office.

That means providing emergency shelter, food, toiletries and other essentials for people sleeping in city-owned facilities. Right now, two city rec centers are being used for overnight shelters, one has been set up as a welcome center for new arrivals and another civic building has been designated as an overflow shelter for migrants at least through Sunday, Ortega said. City officials have asked news organizations not to identify the facilities being used out of concern for the safety and privacy of those staying there.

Budgeting for what comes next is nearly impossible.

“The costs associated with it are also an unknown,” Ortega said. ” Until we know how many are going to come and how we can get them to the next stage on their journey, we won’t have a firm answer on that.”

The influx of migrants has overlapped with a string of dangerous winter storms this month that further strained the city’s shelter system. That included a blast of arctic air that required the city to open the Denver Coliseum as an emergency shelter for four days just before Christmas. That arrangement was largely paid for by the American Red Cross, according to the city’s finance department. Not so for the migrant crisis.

The city’s estimated $3 million expenditures cover a handful of broad categories, including staffing, transportation including bus tickets for migrants with destinations outside metro Denver and food, city officials said.

The city has offered positions to more than 100 people to staff its shelters so far, Ortega said. Of those, more than half have accepted. They are classified as temporary employees.

That number will grow. The city is looking to add case workers that would be focused on helping migrants that don’t have destinations outside the city figure out their next steps here.

“We want to help these people directly figure out Plan B … and how we can help them integrate into the country in a longer-term way,” Ortega said.

The city has largely drawn the funding needed for the emergency shelters from its general fund. That is the plan going forward but the city is also hopeful it will get some federal and state relief after Mayor Michael Hancock declared the migrant situation an emergency earlier this month.

The state’s department of local affairs has already agreed to reimburse Denver $1.5 million in expenses but that grant must still go through a City Council process before its approved, officials said. A $2.5 million pot of federal American Rescue Plan Act funding has been set aside to support services for migrants, Ortega said, but the money will be divided up statewide, not go entirely to Denver.

The city is also working as fast as it can to find nonprofit partners or other government entities that can house the migrants both in the short term and long term, Ortega said. Housing between 1,400 and 1,500 people per night in a combination of city-owned facilities and facilities run by partners is viewed as unsustainable. Mayor Hancock described Denver’s network of support as being at its breaking point at a press conference last week.

“We’re looking at any and all options that we possibly can to ensure that there is not a humanitarian crisis on the streets of Denver,” Ortega said.


Source link