DENVER CBS4)– The Colorado Village Collaborative is working with the City of Denver on securing a safe outdoor space for the homeless. After potential sites at the Denver Coliseum and a plaza near 24th and Welton fell through over the last few months, they’ve set up a mock safe outdoor space for the pubic to get a better idea of how the city’s first sanctioned campsite will work.
Their large-scale plan includes 50 tents, 24-hour onsite management, and weekly trash pickup, but organizers hope a small-scale pop up at Belong Church in Denver this weekend will give concerned residents a better idea of the layout. It’s a first look at a concept to house Denver’s unsheltered homeless population.
“We’re really excited to have a proof of concept,” said Cuica Montoya, the Safe Outdoor Space manager for Colorado Village Collaborative. “People see what it looks like to have an illegal encampment in their neighborhood, but people don’t know what it looks like to have a managed, temporary campsite that’s addressing public health.”
The mock site includes socially distanced campsites complete with a cot, a sleeping bag, storage, space, and hygiene kits.
After proposed sites fell through at the Denver Coliseum and a plaza near the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library in Five Points, mostly due to community opposition, Montoya knew a small-scale model would encourage community support.
“Encampments grow, the trash accumulates, there’s biohazards, so that’s what’s out there right now, which is totally different than what we plan on providing folks,” Montoya told CBS4’s Andrea Flores.
While neighborhoods around town have dismissed sanctioned sites in their backyard, Belong Church at 16th and Ogden offered up theirs.
“The reality of an unoccupied model gives people a chance of coming in and seeing that it’s not scary, that there’s nothing terrible here, there’s nothing frightening here, and it’s simply a place for other human beings to find rest,” said Reverend Jasper Peters.
Along with a safe place to sleep, safe outdoor space residents would have access to resources like restrooms, showers, and washing machines, something Colorado Village Collaborative says is crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Give this a chance,” Montoya said. “You’re really going to see that this is just offering a very humane response to folks in a global health crisis.”
The site residents would also receive mental health support, housing resources, and outreach services. Montoya says more than 1,300 people are currently unhoused on the streets of Denver.
You can visit the unoccupied model of the safe outdoor space this weekend at Belong Church, 1615 N Ogden St. in Denver from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.