DENVER — Denver voters will get to decide if the city should create an ongoing, dedicated revenue stream to address the city’s growing homeless crisis.
Denver’s City Council approved adding a Homelessness Resolution Fund to the November ballot, which would generate up to $40 million a year by ratcheting up the city’s sales tax by 0.25%.
Councilwoman Robin Kniech said the measure will help both the chronically homeless and people hit by the economic fallout of COVID-19 get off the streets and back on their feet.
“There are folks who are newly homeless because they lost their job during COVID, there are families with kids,” Kniech said. “And this is our chance to help give them an opportunity to restart their lives, to become stable, and to help to be a healthier community.”
More than one in three Coloradans are worried they’ll lose their housing because they can’t pay their rent or mortgage, according to a recent Colorado Health Foundation survey, and people of color are disproportionately at risk.
The fund would be used to build housing, improve emergency shelters, and provide services for people experiencing or exiting homelessness. The bump in sales tax is expected to cost the average household almost five dollars a month.
Last year, three sales-tax increases were approved, but Denver voters rejected an initiative to decriminalize homelessness and overturn the city’s camping ban.
Cathy Alderman, chief communications and public policy officer for the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, said she hopes voters will agree creating a dedicated funding source for housing assistance is a good investment.
“We heard through that campaign the slogan ‘We can do better,'” Alderman said. “And I think Denver really does want to see us do better and to address homelessness in a compassionate and responsible way.”
The number of people experiencing homelessness in Denver was on the rise even before the pandemic hit. The most recent point-in-time count conducted in January was up by 6% from the previous year, and up 15% since 2018.
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