The Salvation Army plans to demolish its overcrowded Crossroads Shelter and rebuild in the same location in Denver’s River North Arts District, according to the charity’s Lt. Col. Daniel Starrett.

In the meantime, the nonprofit faces hundreds of thousands of dollars in repairs to correct safety violations found during Denver Fire Department inspections of the 80-year-old building.

And that task may be as tough as finding a temporary location for the shelter while the old building is torn down and rebuilt to meet the demands of a homeless population that is growing because of a booming economy, legal marijuana and ease of access to Medicaid, Starrett said.

“The Salvation Army is working with the city to find buildings,” Starrett said, noting that some people are resistant to having the homeless in their midst. “Everybody thinks we should help them, but nobody wants it in their neighborhood.”

An average of 634 men stayed in the shelter each night in December, up from 563 nightly in December 2015, and 441 during the same month of 2014. In December 2013, the month before recreational sales of marijuana became legal in Colorado, the average was 259 men.

A regional shortage of low-cost housing has complicated the problem.

“Denver is growing by an estimate of 1,000 people per month,” Denver Human Services spokeswoman Julie Smith said. “Unfortunately, we know some people arrive here underprepared and find themselves experiencing homelessness.”

The city has been working with the Salvation Army to determine the ideal number housed at Crossroads each night. The fire department wants the number of occupants limited to 476.

On nights when demand outstrips space, the city buses people to an overflow shelter near Peoria Street and Interstate 70 that it has leased since May 2015, Smith said.

One night last week, 514 people stayed at Crossroads, 97 took the bus to Peoria Shelter from Crossroads. Six men refused shelter for the night and left, Salvation Army spokeswoman Tahreem Pasha-Glenn said.

Overcrowding becomes a problem on cold winter nights, when many of the occupants sleep on mats placed on the floor. “Some areas of the building with inadequate egress are being used as sleeping areas,” the fire department said, ordering the areas cleared and other building exits to be brought into compliance with building codes.

“In extreme weather conditions when our priority is to get as many people off the streets as possible” crowding does reduce access to exits, Pasha-Glenn said. “We are working with the city of Denver and fire department to come up with solutions so these areas can remain clear at all times, which includes reducing the number of people served at Crossroads Center.”

The health and safety violations could cost $300,000 to $400,000 to fix. Problems ranged from overcrowding to inadequate escape routes during times when it is overcrowded, and portable toilets substituting for permanent restrooms.

Some of the work — such as replacement of portable toilets with restrooms that include permanent fixtures and showers — will probably never be done, because of plans to tear down the building, Starrett said.

“We may have to put in 50 toilets, and showers. To put that much money in for two years would be a waste of money,” he said.

Repair of sprinklers that the fire department wanted has been completed.

Salvation Army officials have been considering an upgrade to Crossroads for several years. Tentative plans call for demolition to begin in the summer of 2019, contingent on permitting and funding.

Architectural plans that would determine the potential cost of the state-of-the-art replacement haven’t been drawn up.

The project could take up to four years to complete.

Starrett said funding could come from the city, corporate grants and the Salvation Army. The nonprofit owns the 38,213-square-foot building, which was built in the late 1930s, as well as the land it sits on near 29th and Delgany streets, in the rapidly gentrifying industrial neighborhood, Pasha-Glenn said.

The city has “agreed to work with us to help us find funding,” Starrett added. “They understand there’s a cost to the Salvation Army, they are a good partner to us, and we try to be a good partner to them.”

The Denver Fire Department’s fire-protection unit inspects Crossroads annually, spokeswoman Melissa Taylor said. Citations that result are “potentially different every year.”

A review of fire department inspection records found no violations noted between 2011 to 2014. An inspection did not take place in 2015.

Inspections in 2016 and 2017 found a number of violations that are now being worked on.

More temporary housing is on the way. Catholic Charities next year plans to open a new 150-bed homeless shelter in northeast Denver for single women.

And Denver is buying a warehouse near West Seventh Avenue and Alcott Street, minutes from downtown, to replace the Peoria Street shelter, which requires long bus trips each night and back to downtown each morning.

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