Investment

Discomfort increases as Denver hires allied private security guards to patrol emergency shelters for the homeless against coronaviruses

21 guards will monitor the National Western Complex and the Denver Coliseum. They will be disarmed.

Denver will pay a security company up to $ 4 million to oversee two massive shelters for the homeless, raising concerns from community leaders and elected officials about privacy and safety.

On Monday, the city government contracted with California-based Allied Universal Security, a company with multiple contracts in the city – and a history of employees beating up people at Union Station and Boston North Station – to patrol the areas. Emergency shelters at the National Western Complex and Coliseum in Denver.

The contract will fund 21 security guards, who are not allowed to physically interview residents of the two shelters, the agreement says. Kami Johle, director of general service administration for Denver, told city council members Monday that “absolutely no guns” will be carried by the guards. She called the security guards “customer service even if they are in uniform.”

However, the responsibilities of Allied Guards go far beyond showing people where the toilets are. According to the contract, contractors will also check bags, support shelter enforcement, patrol the area for drug and alcohol use, and protect areas from unauthorized entry. Guards will be posted around the shelter, including near the showers, the contract says.

Portable showers, on loan from the Ride The Rockies cycling race, are ready to serve homeless men and are housed at the National Western Center.  April 8, 2020 (Kevin J. Beaty / Denverite)

National Western can house up to 600 men. The Denver Coliseum can accommodate up to 300 women.

City councilors Jamie Torres and Candi CdeBaca questioned the company’s history, which includes a beating.

CdeBaca questioned why the government chose Allied, who is being sued after two of his guards, Taylor Taggart and Victor Diaz, pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the beating of local artist Raverro Stinnett in the toilets at Union Station. The lawsuit says Stinnett suffered permanent brain damage.

“This is a fairly high profile case due to the permanent brain damage suffered,” CdeBaca said, “so it’s hard for me to get a feel for the city by going with this supplier knowing what’s going on. ‘happened in this case, even from an outside point of view.

Allied was the only company in 10 that could staff shelters in a short period of time, Johle said, adding that she had spoken “extensively” with Denver’s general service security officer, George Hunt, on how to deal with homeless residents. The guards, who Johle says have been trained to be sensitive to the population, are already working on an interim basis.

Denver now operates two auxiliary shelters for the homeless, one for men at the National Western Complex and one pictured here for women at the Coliseum.  The facilities provide respite, coronavirus screening, and sleeping areas that follow social distancing rules.  (Hart Van Denburg / CPR News)

“We were very happy with their performance… everyone was very happy with their performance, their relationship with the residents,” said Johle.

Nicole Tschetter, spokesperson for the Denver Rescue Mission shelter operator, told Denverite that the Mission supports the city’s decision.

“It’s overkill,” said Terese Howard of Denver Homeless Out Loud.

The lawyer for the homeless Denverites said her members say shelters are already over-staffed. In addition to security guards, Denver police patrol outside shelters.

“If you want to live in an ultra-controlled environment, it might be okay for some people to have that sense of control,” Howard said. “But if you want to live in an environment where you feel you have a little more ability to walk and breathe without being supervised by staff, that’s another question.”

Bishop Jerry Demmer, president of the Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance, urged the council to boost the contract in a letter.

“We do not trust Allied Universal Security to fairly and respectfully protect our most vulnerable members of our community, especially with the increased stress of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Demmer wrote. “We respectfully ask Denver City Council to decline this contract and seek other agencies to provide security.”

Council approved the contract by an 11-2 margin, with City Councilor Amanda Sawyer and CdeBaca dissenting.

This article has been updated to correct a reporting error. George Hunt is the security officer for the city’s general service department, not Allied Universal’s security officer.