City Struggles to Find Space for Sanctioned Homeless Camps

COVID-19 pandemic complicates practice of sheltering unhoused  people.
Photo: Victoria Moffat · The Sentry

Neighborhoods & activists work together to find solution

As Denver’s homeless population grows, the need for locations to camp becomes more of a necessity. However, locations within the city are already scarce. 

As described on Colorado Village Collaborative’s website, “These Safe Outdoor Spaces will be healthy, secure, staffed, resource and service-rich environments that prioritize people experiencing homelessness who are not accessing existing services or resources.”  

Recently, the parking lot of the Denver Coliseum was one of the top considerations for the first location of these sanctioned homeless camps. However, after pushback from the neighborhood and communities surrounding the Coliseum, they scrapped the plan and are back at the beginning, considering several unnamed locations that each must meet certain criteria. As these sites are being considered, concerns about health, pollution, safety, and much more have come into question for the neighborhoods in which the sites would be situated. 

Many of these concerns are already active, due to homeless camps near and at the building, as well as other issues that are pre-existent for the community. In an article from CBSN Denver, Cuica Montoya, a manager for the Safe Outdoor Space, explains, “This community has been marginalized historically over and over again.” The community’s concerns are far from invalid and a need for more discussion seems to exist between the neighborhoods and Colorado Village Collaborative before there’s an attempt to move forward again.  

According to the Colorado Village Collaborative website, they estimate that in Denver alone there are “5,317 people experiencing homelessness.” 

The villages themselves are a little bit tricky, only being able to house an average of 50 people each, depending on the location, which thus requires many locations to match the need. The Coliseum was set for 60, as well as the new sites being considered in place of it. From that math alone, Denver is in need of around 88 locations, and currently only has a handful in mind – all undetermined.  

The struggle to find sanctioned locations is juxtaposed with the sweeps of homeless camps that are becoming more frequent throughout the city and the use of the Urban Camping Ban, which is set to resume after it was ruled against last year. The sweeps shift homeless camps and individuals from location to location, against recommendations of the CDC that if there are no housing solutions available, encampments should be left alone. According to their website, “Clearing encampments can cause people to disperse throughout the community and break connections with service providers. This increases the potential for infectious disease spread.”  

As of now, the Colorado Village Collaborative is still working to find a location for the Safe Outdoor Space since the Coliseum has been removed from the plan. Unknown locations are in consideration. However, these sites still need time to be determined, and once determined, set up. Although, even with these difficulties, the Collaborative remains hopeful and steadfast in exploring all the options possible for locations.

This is a selection from the September 02 issue. To view the full issue, visit:

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