Dozens of the Denver metro area’s homeless will move from tough streets Monday to plush, new apartments in Stapleton.
Mercy Housing Inc.’s Bluff Lake Apartments will eventually be home to about 180 people who are currently homeless and meet income requirements. The new residents must make about $16,700 to $23,800 annually depending on the number of occupants.
The development is near the intersection of Havana Street and East 31st Avenue and has 92 apartments. The residences are equipped with dishwashers, patios and balconies, vinyl flooring that resembles hardwood, stylish kitchen cabinets and countertops, and bright, open interiors.
The units were designed to give low-income people a place they’re proud to be living in, said Jennifer Erixon, senior vice president of Real Estate Development and Asset Management for Mercy Housing.
“We really want to make sure that this feels like home for people who are living here,” she said.
She hopes that future residents will become more motivated to look for stable jobs or go back to school because they’ll have a safe, comfortable place to call home, Erixon said.
“When it feels like home, we find that people are a lot more productive, they feel respected, and they can focus on the things they need to do in order to stabilize their lives,” she said.
Many of the people moving into the Bluff Lake Apartments have been homeless for several years and are currently living in hotels, or sleeping on friends’ couches, she said.
“Having a place like this that’s comfortable really can be a huge launching point for people,” she said.
To qualify for the housing program, people need to be making about 30 percent of the area median income, which in Arapahoe, Adams and Denver counties, is about $16,700 for one person, $19,000 for a couple, and $23,800 for a family of four. Their rent would be equal to about 30 percent of their income, Erixon said. Having an income doesn’t necessarily mean these tenants have jobs, Erixon said. Many of them receive disability payments from the government.
She said one of the men moving into the apartments became homeless 10 years ago after a serious injury when he worked as a carpenter. He’s currently living in a hotel in north Aurora.
Denver-based Mercy Housing, which develops and finances affordable homes, received financial help from the federal government, the state’s housing program, and the city of Denver to construct the $16 million housing development in Stapleton.
The Bluff Lake Apartments are opening at the heels of a homeless camping ban that Denver City Council members passed in May. Aurora City Council members will decide in July whether to pass a ban of their own, to deter homeless people from crossing the Denver border into Aurora.
Erixon said Denver’s homeless camping ban underscores the need for an affordable housing development to help people in both Denver and Aurora get off the streets.
The Bluff Lake Apartments will help those cities immensely by freeing up space for people in traditional housing shelters, she said, like the Denver Rescue Mission and other housing programs like Aurora Warms the Night.
The need for housing for the homeless is also evidenced by the amount of people on the waitlist for the Bluff Lake Apartments.
About 700 people are currently on the waitlist, said Property Manager Monica Cleveland, and about 300 people applied to live in the apartments when Mercy Housing officials opened the application process on Jan. 17th, she said.
Although it’s difficult to estimate how many homeless people there are, a Point in Time Study released this month showed there were 12,605 homeless people in the Denver metro area on Jan. 23.
Aurora City Councilwoman Molly Markert said she knows at least 10 people in Ward IV that need housing.
How much is the rent? ‘stable work’? I thought earlier it said you had to meet income requirements? I have a feeling there is NO rent, so why wouldn’t there be a long long waiting list? And how long before they turn this into a slum?