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Denver leaders consider changes in city's response to ongoing migrant crisis

Denver leaders consider major change in how city responds to migrant crisis
Denver leaders consider major change in how city responds to migrant crisis 03:02

Denver leaders are considering a major change in how the city responds to the ongoing migrant crisis. That change would include outsourcing its humanitarian response, rather than relying on its own resources and community nonprofits.  

The city estimates it has cost at least $17 million to provide shelter and aid for the nearly 12,000 migrants, who have arrived in town since December.  

If approved by the city council, the city would contract with GardaWorld Federal Services, a third-party company based out of Virginia. The $40 million contract would extend through March of 2024 with two one-year extension options.  

GardaWorld would be in charge of running a congregate shelter for up to 1,000 people, staffing at a ratio of 1:30, providing medical care, reunification services, on-site food preparation services, and more.  


"Having temporary shelter locations that have required us to move our migrant guests between shelters regularly has created a lot of pressure and instability for the migrants being served," said Jay Morein, executive director of the Denver Department of Health and Human Services. "Having the shelter in a more stable and secure site has been something we were seeking through the RFP process." 

GardaWorld is most known for security services and armed vehicles, but the company says it provides migrant and humanitarian services too. 

Company leaders said GardaWorld has recently operated migrant shelters in El Paso and San Antonio, Texas.  

The company also has a contract with the state of Florida, which has a program to relocate migrants to other Democratic states. 

GardaWorld executives told councilmembers the company was not involved in the recently arranged flights, which some have criticized as a political stunt.  

"We are aware of news reports claiming our involvement in relocating migrants across state lines, specifically with the state of Florida. To clarify, we have not provided such services," said GardaWorld senior vice president, Dave Watson reading from a prepared statement. "We understand the concerns that interstate migration relocation can cause, and we will not pursue this type of service so we can focus on our critical work supporting the city of Denver."  

In Wednesday's Safety, Housing, Education and Homelessness Committee meeting, staff shared contract details as well as how to fund it. 


That would include reallocating $20 million dollars from other funds to create the Border Crisis Response Special Revenue Fund.  

Representatives from GardaWorld shared several details about how they would operate which includes cooking meals in-house, providing cultural training for staff, and having medical personnel available. The company has also identified three potential locations for the shelter.  

Council members questioned GardaWorld representatives about the company's experience in helping migrants, its reunification services, and its plans to include current stakeholders.  

"I have yet to come up with something, a newspaper article, saying you're doing this well, so I'm going to need some references and some assurance," said councilmember Paul Kashmann. "Can you tell me where you do exactly what we want you to do in Denver?" 


"How can we guarantee that our nonprofits are going to be part of this process?" asked councilmember Amanda Sandoval.  

Sitting in the back row of the room, Yoli Casas shared some of the same concerns. Her organization, Vive Wellness, currently plays a major part in the city's migrant response.  

"My concern is I don't believe they have experience of working with the people from the inside," Casas said. "It is what it is, so let's make it together and listen to city council and demand this works, and demand that people are at the table."  

The full council will now get to review the contract before having the final say. The first discussion and vote could happen on July 3 or 10.   

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