Denver limits migrant shelter stays to 14 days


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DENVER — Denver city leaders have notified arriving migrants that they can stay in emergency shelters for no more than 14 days.

In a statement to Denver7, Denver’s Joint Information Center said emergency shelter stays “should be a very temporary way for folks who’ve made a long journey to get here.”

From the time they arrive to Denver and throughout their stay in our emergency shelters and our city, migrants are provided resources to connect them with friends and family, transportation, clothing, food, immigration support and other assistance. Resource navigators are also working with the newly arriving migrants to connect them with housing options and all necessary resources and services including short-term shelter, temporary housing, host families, food, clothing, and benefit programs.

At the end of December, we began letting newly arriving migrants know that effective Jan. 9, our intent will be for people to stay in the emergency shelters for no more than 14 days. This is being communicated as folks disembark buses upon arriving in Denver, at the reception center and again at each of the shelters. Living in an emergency shelter should be a very temporary way for folks who’ve made a long journey to get here to stay warm in winter, get connected to resources, and develop a plan to either remain here long-term or travel to their next U.S. destination.

14 days has been determined as an appropriate amount of time for migrants to rest up from their travels and get connected to resources to help them in their next phase. This is an opportunity for non-profits and faith organizations to step up by providing humanitarian aid to these very vulnerable neighbors as well.”

Denver city officials say 73 migrants arrived overnight as of 2:30 p.m. Monday. The city has helped 4,017 migrants since Dec. 9.

As of Monday afternoon, 560 migrants are sheltered in city emergency shelters, and 582 migrants are sheltered in partner emergency shelters, according to the city.

“I’ve been volunteering for about three weeks now. What I’ve seen first and foremost is that the city staff that are managing the sites are putting their all into it,” said Cameron Segura, a volunteer at a Denver migrant shelter.

But Segura said behind the scenes, in some instances, the city is missing the mark.

“We only have a handful of interpreters at my site… people are coming and asking for help — they have a headache, or they have some kind of medical issue. We have no medical personnel on site most days, and we’re not allowed to even give them an Advil,” he said. “What we are doing is keeping people in limbo, without any opportunities to improve their situation themselves, really access to caseworkers, access to pro bono lawyers, access to therapists, access to, I mean, health care… some of it’s been resources that are miles away.”

Segura said those resources aren’t on-site at every shelter, so migrants have to walk or find their own transportation to access them.

“The big part in declaring yourself a sanctuary city is understanding and being attuned to what type of migrants are going to be coming because over the years, we’ve had all different kinds of migration flows. This one is one where people are coming from very bad situations. They’re coming from being economically exploited, socially, personally. So the people that are coming here are coming here for protection,” he said. “One aspect of that is getting to people where they need to go for reunification, getting them through that reunification process. But at the same time, it’s understanding that you’re going to have people that are potentially going to stay. So yes, we are moving people out of the city to where they want to go. But in recent weeks, it seems like that’s our main priority.”

Segura said he’s heard city workers tell migrants that Denver may be too expensive for them to live.

“I’ve heard this is a very expensive city. We’ve had a boom in the last few years of people that want to live here. So the best thing to do would be to move on,’” he said.

Segura said no city is prepared for thousands of people to show up in their city in a few weeks’ time.

“We have amazing city workers working relentlessly. But at the same time, we have managers of departments that don’t normally manage humanitarian crises,” he said.

Segura said now is the time for city leaders to focus on the migrants who want to stay here.

“We are providing comfortable places for people to recollect themselves after a treacherous journey, and this is something to be proud of. Still, this should be a part of a more comprehensive plan to protect and help assimilate people. Otherwise, it is ultimately a big waste of taxpayer money and migrants’ vital time,” he said. “I think we need to have a really open conversation about what can we do, because the goal would be hopefully to create a model for the rest of the states that are trying to do the same thing. Hopefully, we can create a model that they can follow, because this is new territory. So it’s okay to mess up. It’s okay to say we need more, we need better services here. But we need to involve the people that might know how to do that immediately.”

In response to Segura’s concerns, the Joint Information Center said:

 “Community Partners and resource partners have been actively visiting our hotel shelters to provide information and resources to migrants staying in these accommodations, just as what migrants receive at the resource centers we’ve established at local libraries near the recreation centers.”

When it comes to providing assistance to migrants in shelters who need to fill out asylum paperwork, The JIC said:

“We are committed to building this resource for our guests through community partnerships, to include ensuring our legal partners also visit our shelters outside of the resource fairs to provide guidance and assistance with this paperwork. We are open to any and all community partners who would like to work with us to increase the amount of times and support we can offer migrants through this effort.”

The JIC said the Department of Public Health and environment provides rotational services to shelters along with vaccination clinics. DDPHE is also coordinating medical care for arriving migrants. For migrants in shelters who experience non-emergency medical needs, shelters and shelter workers are provided with resources to address those concerns.

The JIC said the shelter is also prioritizing making transportation readily available for shelter guests who require emergency care.

As for the long-term plan for migrants who choose to stay in Denver after spending 14 days in an emergency shelter, the JIC said:

“We are currently expanding our resource provisions to adequately address the needs of migrants who choose to remain here in Denver and this includes working with partners to identify and address other shelter sites in the city, up to and including other Denver facilities. We are also working to identify short-term and long-term housing options for migrants. We want to ensure it’s very clear that we will not be simply kicking people out of shelters after a two-week stay should they not have plans on what to do next.”

The Joint Information Center also provided the following information:

• 58% of our shelter workers and 84% of our on-call workers speak Spanish.

• We have established two resource centers for migrants near their emergency shelters. The resource center near Rude Recreation Center is 4 minutes away and the resource center near Central Park Recreation Center is 5 minutes away. The resource centers are staffed with legal immigration assistance and non-profits who assist with helping migrants assimilate into society.

• DDPHE is assisting in the coordination of medical care for arriving migrants. At the Reception Center, all individuals undergo a symptom screening for COVID-19 and other respiratory & GI illnesses. DDPHE is also providing voluntary COVID-19 vaccinations at the Reception Center. For those with urgent medical needs at the shelter sites, medical volunteers coordinate care in conjunction with vetted community providers and services.

• We have printed and provided migrants with over 1000 flyers of national resources should they choose to leave the Denver area.

Support Services 

  • Mile High United Way’s 211 is a FREE, multilingual, and confidential service that connects individuals with community resources. 211 is available Monday-Friday, from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Dial 2-1-1 if you need help finding resources in the community, or text 898-211. 
  • For additional resources and support available to individuals regardless of immigration status, contact UndocuHub [denvergov.org] or call 720-597-8001 Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Friday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. 
  • Colorado Rapid Response Network at 844-864-8341 Monday-Friday from 5 p.m.-8 a.m. 
  • For access to free childcare services, dial 211 or contact the following: 
  • Child Care Resources and Referrals at Mile High United Way – 877-338-2273 
  • For information about Denver’s Public Library, call 720 865-2362 or email [email protected] 
  • The City and County of Denver cannot assist with helping individuals to find a job or to obtain work authorization status. Individuals need to have work authorization from the United States federal government in order to legally obtain a job.  For more information visit USCIS.gov [uscis.gov].

Access to Food 

There are multiple sites across Denver that provide FREE food in the community. Call 211 to get connected to local food pantries or reach out to Food Bank of the Rockies at 303-371-9250 or visit foodbankrockies.org/find-food [foodbankrockies.org].

Download a Food Resource Guide in Spanish(PDF, 162KB) [denvergov.org]

Medical Resources 

All individuals have the right to be treated for medical emergencies regardless of their immigration status. Medical services are available on site at this emergency shelter, and we can transport shelter guests to a hospital or other facility if medical treatment is needed. Please see shelter staff if you need medical assistance. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911.

The following locations provide medical assistance to immigrants and refugees in Denver:

  • Denver Health NurseLine, 303-739-1211 
  • Denver Health Appointment Center, 303-436-4649 
  • Tepeyac Community Health Center – 5075 Lincoln St., Denver, CO 80216, 303-458-5302 or visit www.tepeyachealth.org [denvergov.org].

Immigration Legal Help 

It is highly recommended that you have a licensed immigration attorney help you apply for asylum or any other form of relief you might be eligible for. The following organizations provide legal services for Denver immigrants and refugees:

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