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Future uncertain for some migrants as Denver begins discharge from shelters

Future uncertain for some migrants as Denver begins discharge from shelters
Future uncertain for some migrants as Denver begins discharge from shelters 03:01

Migrant families in Colorado are once again on the move. As of Monday, the City of Denver has reactivated a policy to discharge families from shelters after reaching the 42-day limit.

It will occur in a rolling fashion, with discharges based on arrival date. While some families have already found new housing, according to a spokesperson for Denver Human Services, others aren't so sure what they'll do next.

"There may be some cases where families we haven't figured out the housing situation yet – we haven't figured out the workpiece yet, work is a major obstacle to all of this – so maybe there will be cases where they're in hotels," said Jon Ewing, DHS spokesperson.


A hotel-turned-shelter near I-25 is where Luis Arrieche, his wife and their four children are currently staying. They have about a month left there now with the time limit, and Luis told CBS News Colorado he's not sure what will happen. Right now, he's thankful his kids – ranging in age from 4 to 12 years old – are going to classes at nearby Denver schools.

"They are already studying," he said. "We have nowhere else to go because we don't have family here. It's just us."

With how tough it's been to find employment, Luis' wife said it's helpful her children are learning English. Still, they are having difficulty finding support and say shelter staff don't have answers.

"I asked and they told me they couldn't help apply for anything here," Rosangelica Lopez said, "only that we had to look for housing ourselves, which we don't know where to start, at least I don't know."

Ewing said local nonprofits like Vive Wellness are doing their best to help families. However, he acknowledged Denver is an expensive place for anyone to call home, which is why the city is doing what it can to make sure the more than 4,000 migrants that have arrived in recent months aren't left in the dark.

"You're not going to see all those people go onto the streets," he said. "That's the last thing we want. We're trying to work with them; that's why we're doing this over a period of two months."

Other migrant families as well as individuals without children are also taking up the city's offer to cover "onward travel," Ewing explained, to perhaps leave Colorado and find a place more affordable to live. He also said the level of spending to support migrants is "unsustainable" for the city, and it's a financial constraint that can't be ignored.

"We're facing up to a $180 million budget deficit this year -- that's 10 to 15% of the city budget. That's enormous," Ewing said. "We aim to live up to our word. We always said we're a welcoming city. We continue to be a welcoming city. Can we do everything for people? No, and I hope nobody expects us to."

The city will also begin discharging migrant guests again under the following policy:

  • Those who do not qualify for the shelter program but have been admitted during the pause will be discharged on Feb. 5. Individuals must be in the U.S. for fewer than 30 days before coming to Denver and have an Alien Registration Number to qualify for Denver's shelter program.
  • Those who had previously timed out of the shelter program but were readmitted during the pause will be discharged on either Feb. 5 or Feb. 6.
  • Families with children who entered the shelter on Oct. 12, 2023, or later will begin discharges on Feb. 7. Discharges will be based on arrival date and occur in a rolling fashion, with every family receiving a written notification of their discharge date. All families with children will have received at least 42 days in shelter, with some families having been provided as long as four months.
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