Aurora announces emergency homeless shelter for the winter

The Comitis Crisis Center Street Outreach team van sits at a homeless camp Sept. 10, 2020. The outreach team visits homeless camps within the city and offers supply kits to those who may need them.
Photo by PHILIP B. POSTON/Sentinel Colorado

AURORA | An emergency shelter for people experiencing homelessness is opening in north Aurora for the winter. 

The site, at 3293 Oakland St., will be able to house up to 100 people in a socially distanced environment, according to a news release from the city of Aurora. There are also plans in the works to allow people to park RVs or pitch tents outside of the facility.

“The combination of cold nights and the spread of COVID-19 raised serious concerns about there being enough available shelter space in Aurora this winter,” Jessica Prosser, director of Housing and Community Services for the city, said in a statement. “The emergency shelter is a way for us to make sure some of the most vulnerable members of our community have a safe place to stay while observing COVID precautions and preventing the spread of the virus.”

People utilizing the shelter will undergo health screenings to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Those screenings will happen at the Aurora Day Resource Center, and then individuals will be transported to the emergency shelter, according to the city. People sleeping at the shelter will be transported to the resource center each morning, where meals will be served and resources made available.

The shelter will be open 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. daily. 

“On nights when cold temperatures could endanger the lives of those living without warm shelter and the Aurora Cold-Weather Outreach Team is activated, the emergency shelter will be used in conjunction with the Aurora Day Resource Center, Comitis Crisis Center and motel vouchers from Aurora Warms the Night to accommodate up to 450 individuals in socially distanced settings. This will allow for the same number of people sheltered as in pre-COVID winters,” according to the city. 

The shelter will cost about $185,000 a month to operate. That includes security, trash and an operational contract with Mile High Behavioral Health. $100,000 from Arapahoe County CARES Act funding will help set up the shelter.

News of the emergency shelter began in early October when Mayor Mike Coffman said on social media the shelter might allow city officials to break up more outdoor encampments.

Coffman’s posts about the shelter prompted concern from fellow local lawmakers last month who said the mayor was leaking sensitive information that could hinder negotiations.

“It’s causing a lot of problems,” Council member Nicole Johnston said of Coffman’s public statements. “We are, as a council, getting constituents saying, ‘What’s going on with this homeless camp, are you doing a camping ban, are you doing this or that,’ and it is snowballing to be a huge problem. And it started by violating executive session rules.”

Coffman denied that his social media posts had damaged any negotiations to open the shelter.

An opening date for the shelter has not been announced yet, but is expected to be announced soon.