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Homeless Housing Complex Proposal Denied: 'We Are Very Disappointed'

By Jamie Leary

LAKEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4) - The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless says it will not give up on its plans to build a complex near the Federal Center in Lakewood. The land sits near 6th Avenue and Union Boulevard.

On Monday, the city of Lakewood was notified that the federal Department of Health and Human Services denied the coalition's application to purchase the property. By Tuesday a disappointed coalition was already making plans.

(credit: CBS)

The coalition said in a statement Tuesday morning:

"We are very disappointed by the HHS decision. We believe HHS erred in its decision based on the law and the facts. We will immediately appeal to HHS and if we do not get a positive response, we will likely be going back to court to protect rights of people experiencing homelessness in Lakewood and Jefferson County."

"Businesses along the corridor have invested and a map has been laid," said Kristi Pollard, President and CEO of the Jefferson County Economic Development Corporation. "We had hundreds and hundreds of businesses, residents and experts who came together and said, 'this is how we believe this land should be used,' and it was completely being thrown out the door. We just didn't feel like that was appropriate," she said.

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(credit: CBS)

Under the Mckinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, the surplus federal property is prioritized for homeless services, like emergency housing but many residents and neighboring business owners are relieved the application was denied.

"It would have been disastrous. I mean finally, we have great public transportation. We have light rail there. We have the most beautiful up to date hospital in the country, St. Anthony's and all of sudden we're going to do this combination of homeless people," said Michael Coughlin, owner of the restaurant, 240 Union which runs adjacent to the property.

Coughlin has been a business owner for 30 years and is part of a group called Lakewood Residents Unite. The Facebook group formed when the coalition initially proposed to buy the land. He says he would like to see more collaboration from lawmakers to find a solution to the homeless issue. He says a placing as many as 1,000 homeless next to his restaurant would hurt business.

Michael Coughlin, who owns a business near the site, speaks with CBS4's Jamie Leary. (credit: CBS)

"People might be more afraid to come here. Definitely park in the back parking lot," said Coughlin.

"I'm relieved at this time because I know its not planned well," said Anne Schuller, who lives about a mile from the site.

Schuller says the development would push Denver's homeless problem into the suburbs. She says it's a Denver issue that Denver should solve since the homeless population would rather not live in Lakewood.

"I'm not sure that's where they want to be or not, but it seems like we're pushing them away from where they want instead of solving the problem where its at."

Pollard said the experience has brought new attention to the issue.

"It also has heightened the awareness of the business community of the profound need that we do have and the role that we need to play in finding solutions for those folks." She said.

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The former site of a proposed homeless housing area in Lakewood. (credit: CBS)

Lakewood Mayor, Adam Paul issued a statement on his Facebook page Monday:

"Its important to note that the denial of the CCH's proposal does not deny the fact that we have homeless in our community. Let's use this experience to start the conversation of how we come together as neighbors, as a city, as a county to find meaningful solutions to help those in need."

The property owner, U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), updated its website this week indicating the land would be up for auction soon.

HHA has not yet released the reason for its decision.

Jamie Leary joined the CBS4 team in 2015 and currently works as a reporter for CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. She couldn't imagine a better place to live and work and will stop at nothing to find the next great story. Jamie loves learning about and hearing from her fellow community members, so connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @JamieALeary.

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