The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless is a step closer to taking ownership of 59 undeveloped acres near the Federal Center in Lakewood after the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) …
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The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless is a step closer to taking ownership of 59 undeveloped acres near the Federal Center in Lakewood after the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) approved the initial application to provide housing and services to assist the homeless on the land.
On Jan. 23, HHS approved the plan submitted by the coalition, which moves the organization on to the next step in the application process - supplying detailed financing and operational plans for the $120 million project by March 9, again to the HHS.
“We are thrilled that we have the opportunity to have such an impact in Jefferson County,” said Cathy Alderman, vice president of communications and public policy with the coalition, which advocates for and provides a continuum of housing and a variety of services — such as medical treatment and child care services — to improve the health, well-being and stability of homeless residents. “This financing and operation plan that we submit in March is a more detailed and more focused on the `how’ we will develop and use the site.”
While the final plans are still in the works, the coalition is looking at temporary housing options for about 250 homeless people on the site. Down the road, the organization would like to build 500 to 600 permanent affordable housing units in apartment buildings on the site.
According to information from the 56-page initial application, the temporary housing could include trailers, geodesic domes and large tents, as well as solar panels to help power the campus. Down the line, the coalition is considering turning about 12 acres in the northern section of the property into a solar panel farm.
Residents who live near the property and some Lakewood officials are concerned about the project, but the city has no official power, since the 59 acres are federally owned land.
To allay some concerns, the entire campus would be fenced and monitored by security, and Alderman said it will not be a tent city.
“We will begin holding town hall and public forums to get community feedback and address concerns through the process,” she added. “The community will be notified when these are scheduled.”
The coalition filed the injunction against the General Services Administration (GSA), which owns the land, on July 25, asking the court to halt the sale until the GSA provided U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) all the details of the property, and gave HUD a chance to determine if the land could be used for homeless services.
The injunction was filed under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, which requires federal agencies to identify and make available surplus federal property, such as buildings and land, for use by states, local governments and nonprofit agencies to assist homeless people.
On Sept. 25, HUD released a letter announcing that the land could be used for homeless services, and ordered the GSA to cancel its online auction of the land.
Since the whole process is a part of strict federal procedure, the coalition is hemmed in by some of the regulations. For instance, they have to develop a plan that uses the entire 59 acres — it has to be all or nothing. Regulations also don’t allow for much in the way of mixed used development.
The 59 acres are zoned Mixed-Use Core Transit (M-C-T), which allows for high-density residential and retail. The land was originally intended for the city of Lakewood to take ownership of, in exchange for building a new laboratory for the Federal Center, which houses 28 agencies in 44 buildings. The agreement was made public in October 2015, but residents’ concern over a lack of information and time to do the necessary groundwork led to negotiations ending in January 2016.
“This approval brings us one step closer to being able to provide safe and stable shelter, housing and services for hundreds of families and individuals that are currently experiencing homelessness. We are proud to bring our over 30 years of experience of providing lasting solutions to homelessness and to build a better and stronger community for the Jefferson County area,” said John Parvensky, President and CEO of the coalition in a statement. “We will continue to collaborate with local elected officials, service providers and community members to make sure we are addressing the unique needs of the local community in our ongoing effort to improve the lives of so many that have been marginalized and left behind in Colorado.”
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