Stop the Massive 600-Unit Homeless Shelter Planned at the Federal Center (6th/Union)
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Colorado Coalition for the Homeless (“CCH”) seeks to acquire a 59-acre parcel of the Lakewood Federal Center, to be used as a temporary campus of trailers and tents for the homeless, and eventually to be transitioned into a 600-unit housing complex for the homeless (expected to house approx. 1,000 people based on CCH’s projections, though the actual numbers may be much higher). CCH’s current plan may be reviewed in detail HERE.
The property is owned by the federal government and managed by the General Services Administration adjacent to the Federal Center RTD light rail station. Under the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, excess or surplus federal property must be made available to homeless service providers before all others.
Upon receipt of CCH’s first application to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) determined the land was unsuitable for habitation as it was the site of a toxic landfill. CCH challenged the determination and the court ruled in its favor, allowing its application to proceed. As a result, HUD has now approved the application and asked CCH to provide a financial and operations plan to begin its $120 million project. CCH’s final application to HHS is due March 9, 2018.
The majority of Lakewood’s residents have serious and valid concerns about this project and deserve to be heard by CCH, HHS, and our elected officials. This project will be constructed on federal land (owned by taxpayers), and the project will be funded largely by government grants (taxpayer funds) in an established residential and business area of Lakewood.
Lakewood’s residents are not heartless or ignorant to the plight of the homeless in our communities. To the contrary, most residents would enthusiastically support a project of a smaller scale that encourages community input and includes impact studies, a screening process for residents, and a parcel of land that is safe and uncontaminated for habitation. Below is a list of our community’s serious concerns:
This parcel of land is contaminated (HUD determined it was unsuitable for habitation) as it is home to a former landfill and presents serious health risks to the residents and surrounding areas. It is not a safe place for anyone to live and our homeless population deserves better.
Lack of Transparency
Most Lakewood residents, along with several businesses in the surrounding area, are unaware of this project and its scope. Although this process appears to have begun in mid-2017, the few residents who are now aware of it have only recently become aware through social media. A project of this size and scope will most certainly impact the community in several important ways, and yet, no impact studies have been conducted, nor have any residents or businesses in the area been officially informed. CCH recently held a few last-minute meetings as residents have become increasingly aware of the project and expressed concerns; however, the meetings are not publicized and notice of the meetings has only been sent to individuals who subscribe to CCH’s email list.
Size of the Project
The proposed complex is almost three times the size of any project ever attempted by CCH. Mr. Parvensky (CEO of CHH) admits that its size is “not ideal.” However, due to the fact that CCH will obtain the land at no cost, along with the restrictions of the McKinney-Vento Act, he is pushing ahead with this plan as is, regardless of the effect it will have on the surrounding community. The proposed plan will create an island of poverty in a thriving business district. Federal guidelines dictate that CCH must use 100% of the land for homeless. Given the size of the property and the impact to the community, this requirement should be revisited to assess if mixed-use, or subdividing the property, will provide a jointly beneficial homeless and community impact.
Impact on Schools
Jefferson County’s schools are extremely overburdened and underfunded. Mr. Parvensky stated on February 8, 2018 that he believes homeless children are already attending Jefferson County schools, so there will be no impact. However, one of CCH’s goals is to reduce the burden of the homeless population on Denver and other areas, so one can safely assume that this project will draw families from surrounding area. Also, it seems highly probable that families whose children already attend Jefferson County schools will seek to transfer their children to schools closer in distance to the proposed shelter, thereby placing a burden on the schools in the immediate area. While CCH has stated it will prioritize services for Lakewood families and individuals, there will be no effective process in place to document previous Lakewood residence. Our local schools should be aware of this project and be given an opportunity to voice and properly address concerns for their capacity for projected additional students and budgetary strains.
Crime and Security
Mr. Parvensky states that CCH will provide a fenced, gated community with security paid for by CCH. Per CCH’s FAQ, CCH is “committed to ensuring the safety and security of all program participants.” However, this “security” is for the people living INSIDE the homeless compound and fails to address how Lakewood police, fire and emergency services will be affected, not to mention St. Anthony’s Hospital, which is within walking distance of this site. This large homeless community will be a significant strain on City of Lakewood services and St. Anthony’s Hospital. It is projected that crime will drastically increase in this area (as supported by crime statistics for other CCH properties). During Phase I, Lakewood Police will not be permitted to enter the fenced area as it will still be federal land and thus outside its jurisdiction, but during Phase II when the property will be annexed to Lakewood, the burden of policing the compound will become the city’s responsibility and burden. However, even before the annexation, Lakewood Police will be responsible for handling the immediate disruption to the area. Panhandling, drug use, drunkenness, assaults, and many other behaviors will certainly be an issue with a homeless population of this proposed size. Many local residents and businesses understandably fear for their safety, and will likely be uncomfortable parking their vehicles at and using the light rail station once it is surrounded by the mentally ill, drugs, crime and panhandlers.
Impact on Local Businesses and St. Anthony’s Hospital
There will undoubtedly be a significant impact on the hospital, hotel, restaurants and other businesses along the 6th Avenue/Union Corridor. Such businesses have not been formally notified of CCH’s plans, nor has CCH undertaken an impact study to assess how this will affect the City of Lakewood and the already over-burdened Union Corridor. This is a thriving commercial business district. The Sheraton hotel will have its east-facing rooms overlooking the security-fenced temporary structures. Given the expected increase in crime and panhandling in the area, business owners deserve a say in this planning process and its impact on their businesses and customers. St. Anthony’s Hospital will be largely impacted as an emergency service provider to the uninsured and underinsured.
Again, the majority of Lakewood residents wholeheartedly support a project to help the homeless in our community, but of a smaller size that would help the residents assimilate into the community. The current proposed plan does not have the full, or even majority, support of the Lakewood community. We respectfully request that you actively engage to get this decision delayed until the above concerns are addressed or the proposal is adjusted. Please seek the input of your constituents as it relates to this sub-par proposal submitted by CCH regarding housing for the homeless at the Federal Center. Lakewood and its residents, who will ultimately have financial responsibility for the project/land, deserve to have their voices heard, and our community and homeless population deserve impact studies and a thoughtful approach to solving this complicated problem.
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