Denver Gazette: Denver mayoral candidate Mike Johnston pledges to end homelessness in first term

In an ambitious promise, Denver mayoral candidate Mike Johnston pledged to end homelessness by the end of his first term.

Accomplishing that goal, he said, is contingent on a coordinated attack on overlapping challenges that are fueling homelessness.

Homelessness has spiraled out of control in Colorado in the last several years. Today, almost 7,000 people are homeless in metro Denver, and the debate over what caused that explosion and how to address it rages on. What’s clear is that local governments, notably Denver, have poured significant resources into the crisis, which shows no signs of abating.

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“Denver needs a mayor who will make solving homelessness a top priority and align every department of city government to ensure results,” Johnston said. “As mayor, my office will be front and center of the fight against homelessness.” 

In a policy proposal his campaign outlined on Wednesday, Johnston, one of more than two dozen aspirants to the city’s top post, laid out four core pillars, along with a budget, for his proposed solutions.

Johnston said that, in order to solve the homelessness crisis, the city needs to address three overlapping crises — the lack of affordable housing, the absence of available mental health support and an explosion in the severity of addictive drugs.

Johnston’s four core policy pillars are:

  • Build 10-20 micro communities with 1,400 additional housing units. These will include hotel conversions and small clusters of tiny homes.
  • Provide centralized “wrap-around” services in every micro community to connect residents with mental health and addiction treatment programs, as well as workforce training. Johnston said the new micro communities would partner with existing community resources, such as local churches, civic groups and neighborhood associations.
  • Keep communities together when moving them to housing. By opening micro communities with 40 to 60 units, Johnston plans to move entire encampments together.
  • Stop eviction and displacement by investing in prevention to reduce the number of residents who become homeless.

“Wrap-around” services are comprehensive and individualized support system and resources aimed at helping people confront and overcome the often very complex issues that lead to homelessness. 

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