DENVER (CBS4)– The City of Denver and the Interfaith Alliance are one step closer to building two outdoor safe spaces for people experiencing homelessness. The second temporary use permit was approved to build a site at 16th and Pearl, but there is already a homeless camp there.
“They do drugs all day, they sleep usually all day, then they get up at night and fight and argue and it’s terrible,” said one resident who talked to CBS4 on condition of anonymity.
The current camp isn’t sanctioned by the city or really anyone. The resident who spoke with CBS4’s Michael Abeyta said the neighborhood has gotten so bad because of the camp, they’re afraid they will be recognized and harmed.
“You get kind of used to it, but I don’t know… you try but you can’t really,” they said.
On Wednesday, a temporary zoning permit was issued to build a “safe outdoor space” in the parking lot of the Denver Community Church at 1595 Pearl Street. Unlike the camp across the street, the sanctioned camp will be supervised and have bathrooms, hand washing, medical services, outreach workers, case management workers, mental health workers, and workforce training.
Still, residents aren’t too happy to have it in their neighborhood. “I think it’s bad, you know, they ought to find somewhere better than right here.”
This site and another one nearly complete near Grant Street and 13th Avenue will soon house more than 70 people. During a meeting in November, Dr. Kathleen Van Voorhis assured nervous neighbors they won’t let just anyone into the camps.
“It’s not a first come, first served model. It’s a referral-based model program,” said Voorhis.
The city camp combined with the unsanctioned camp is enough to make some residents want to move out.
“Oh, I’m trying. Honey I’m trying,” said the anonymous neighbor. “If you know where I can go let me know. I will go.”
That permit is temporary, meaning these safe outdoor spaces won’t be at the churches forever. Just during the COVID-19 pandemic.