Former Mullen Home Acts as Interim Housing for Migrant Families

By London Lyle

View from the front of the Mullen Home at 3629 W. 29th Ave. Photo by Kathryn White

On Dec. 21, 2023, a deal between the Archdiocese and the city of Denver went into effect with multiple migrant families moving into the Mullen Home (formerly run by the Little Sisters of the Poor) on 3629 W. 29th Ave.

Seven migrant families are currently staying in the Mullen Home, and this number will gradually ramp up over the coming weeks as they onboard several more families. While there are 75 apartment units available for use, the final headcount is to be determined, said Stacy Baum, vice president of marketing at Catholic Charities. 

The deal between the Archdiocese and Denver is a land swap, with the value of city land signed over to the Archdiocese fully covering rental costs for the year-long lease of the Mullen Home. While residents and the city are off the hook for rental expenses, the city has agreed to pay $1.5 million to cover the cost of basic upkeep, including utilities, maintenance, repairs and insurance. 

Although the selected migrant families staying in the Mullen home are in more secure housing situations than those on the street or in shelters, this is not a long-term housing solution. The families can stay in the Mullen home for three months while they search for permanent places to live. 

After receiving numerous questions from community members who wondered why there was no community meeting or a good neighbor agreement before the families moved in, Denver City Councilwoman Amanda Sandoval emphasized that the Mullen home is not acting as a shelter. 

“The Mullen Home is intended to be an interim housing solution for families who have timed out of the shelter and need a place to live until they find permanent housing. It’s just a different housing option for newcomers in our community,” Sandoval said.

Coordinators strive to prioritize families who have been in shelters for extended lengths of time in the selection process for placement into the Mullen Home. And some families have been in shelters for quite a while. In October, Denver Human Services increased their length-of-stay policies in shelters for families with children from 30 to 37, and on Nov. 17, they paused shelter discharges for families altogether.

Jon Ewing, Denver Human Services spokesperson on migrant sheltering, pointed out that there are different levels of housing insecurity migrant families might have to face. Whether a family is struggling with the harsh Colorado winters out on the streets or cannot make rent each month in an apartment consistently, each level comes with its unique set of challenges. 

“It’s different for every family. There are so many obstacles in their path that they have very little control over. One of those obstacles is work authorization. While people may find work, it’s often under-the-table, day labor kind of work. Everyone wants to work. Everyone wants to put a roof over their head. They want exactly the same things as everyone else in the state. They’re just not authorized to work because of the federal process. So it’s extraordinarily challenging,” he remarked.

While migrant families stay in bridge housing like the Mullen Home, they have the help of nonprofits and community members with finding work, schools for their children and free meals. 

One of those nonprofits is Catholic Charities, the charitable arm of the Archdiocese of Denver. Their staff is responsible for providing the program navigation for Mullen Home. Two meals a day are served to adult residents, while children receive three meals a day, but “if a hungry adult shows up at lunchtime and needs something to eat, we will not turn anyone away,” said Baum.

After a few months, the goal is for these families to transition into secure housing. And while the hope is it will provide some relief in the short term, supply isn’t keeping up with demand, said Ewing. 

“As for the Mullen home, they were able to put it together and give it to us because we had the resources and the funding to do this thing,” Ewing said. “But we do not have the resources to care for more than 200 people arriving per day for another year. Denver doesn’t, and to be completely honest, I don’t know if any city in America does.”

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