DENVER — The Denver City Council approved another month-long extension of the mayor’s emergency declaration on homelessness, but Councilwoman Amanda Sawyer continues to be the only “no” vote.
“I can’t get to a ‘yes’ without more transparency, clear accountability, clear metrics,” Sawyer told Denver7.
In order to reach a goal of housing 1,000 homeless residents by the end of the year, Mayor Mike Johnston believes he needs to use a bureaucratic tool popular during the pandemic — an emergency declaration. The declaration opens more funding options and allows the city to open the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), a centralized location for city leaders and staff to meet.
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The lack of a budget for such an ambitious plan is just one of many concerns for Sawyer.
“Where is the money coming from? And I know that the mayor’s office has applied for a $35 million grant from the state. I hope we get it. What if we don’t?” Sawyer said.
Sawyer said Johnston’s team broke her trust when they gave her an unvetted list of proposed sites for tiny home villages to house those experiencing homelessness. She said it included locations like Steck Elementary School, Hill Middle School, the right of way in front of an Eating Recovery Center location, a private home and a 10-foot strip of land on 5th Avenue.
“The five locations in District Five were not at all options that were viable to build a tiny home location,” Sawyer said.
Denver7 reached out to the mayor’s office for the list of proposed locations that was sent to city council members but has not heard back as of publication.
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Sawyer and other council members have raised concerns about the amount of time their staff are spending at the EOC.
Staff are scheduled to be at the EOC from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday in order to focus on homelessness solutions. But those overseeing the Office of Emergency Management said that focus is needed to address the number one issue residents want resolved — homelessness.
“The EOC is a very powerful tool to get things done quickly. However, it does draw from resources from across the city. That’s what makes it so effective. But with that, we have to make sure we are balancing that,” David Powell with the Denver Office of Emergency Management told city council members Monday.
Ultimately, Sawyer wants the mayor to reach his housing goal but doesn’t believe the emergency declaration is necessary.
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