The city of Denver has spent nearly $8 million on emergency shelter, resources and transportation for the 5,150 migrants who have arrived since early December.
Of the $7,939,855 in city dollars spent, $871,531 has been used to transport migrants going to other cities using a Greyhound bus, according to data from the city’s emergency operations center. A majority of the migrants and asylum seekers who arrived in Denver, many fleeing conditions in Venezuela, were not planning to make Colorado their final destination, Gov. Jared Polis’ office has previously said.
The largest number of bus tickets purchased were from Denver to Chicago, Illinois — 399 — followed by 345 to New York City. That’s based on 1,900 tickets the city bought in December, the latest data available. Those seeking shelter traveled to cities across the country, including Atlanta, Georgia; Miami and Orlando, Florida; Newark, New Jersey; Dallas, Texas; and Salt Lake City, Utah.
“We continue to prioritize getting people to where they want as well as getting people access to services,” spokesperson Ryan Jeffers said.
The money the city has spent so far doesn’t include state funding — $2.5 million has been awarded for reimbursements, Jeffers said — or money that nonprofits have spent on assisting migrants.
Jennifer Piper of the American Friends Service Committee, one of the organizations working on migrant response in Denver, said the Rose Foundation has granted thousands of dollars to various nonprofits to assist those in need, providing several organizations $15,000 in funding, with more to come.
As of Feb. 27, 84 migrants were temporarily staying in city-run facilities and 1,149 in nonprofit partner facilities, an emergency operations center data dashboard shows. The number of migrants and asylum seekers arriving daily has significantly slowed from hundreds a couple of months ago to 22 arriving on Tuesday.
With the numbers winding down, Piper said, now is the time for the city, its partners and community to incorporate migrant arrivals and response as part of regular operations, rather than just as an emergency response.
That includes other cities stepping up to help people with housing, she said, because people who arrive and plan to stay in the area will need housing, whether it’s in Lakewood, Aurora or Denver.
Currently, there are no organized longer-term temporary housing options available for migrants when they leave emergency shelter but don’t have family or friends to stay with. A Denver nonprofit is in the process of hiring someone that can work with the city and others to coordinate these efforts, Piper said, but gaps still remain.
“The city of Denver can only do so much of its part, and if we can’t find enough housing for folks or if the city can’t figure out how to incorporate volunteers, at some point, there will be limitations on how long people can stay in shelter,” she said. “And then they’ll be a part of our communities without a house, without a roof over their head, and that doesn’t really respect city lines.”
Some people have stayed in the emergency shelters until they can make enough money from jobs to pool together with other people they trust to find possible temporary housing solutions, Piper said.
The city of Denver has relied heavily on its own employees to work with migrants in its emergency shelters, spending $4.57 million of the $8 million on personnel costs.
Piper hopes that a change in operations from emergency response will make it easier for people to volunteer and help the migrants who need shelter.
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