Homeless Space

Tents sit in the parking lot at First Baptist Church in Denver’s Capitol Hill neighborhood on Friday, Dec. 4, 2020. The tents, part of Denver’s first Safe Outdoor Space, housed up to 30 women and trans-identifying individuals through June 2021. (Michael Ciaglo/Special to The Denver Gazette)

For the first time, one of Denver’s managed homeless campsites will be run on city property after the City Council approved a license agreement for the camp Monday.

The agreement, which passed in an 11-1 vote, allows Colorado Village Collaborative to lease the parking lot of the Human Services East Office at 3815 N. Steele St. for the campsite, called a Safe Outdoor Space. Only Councilwoman Amanda Sawyer voted no.

“I have consistently voted against the use of Safe Outdoor Spaces and I’m going to continue to do so tonight,” Sawyer said.

The agreement passed on Monday does not include any additional funding for the managed homeless campsites and charges Colorado Village Collaborative $10 for the lease. In previous meetings, Sawyer has argued the city shouldn’t support people living in tents and should focus on traditional shelter systems.

Other council members and city officials have defended the program, which was established at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic when rates of homelessness increased, as did public health concerns regarding indoor shelters.

In 2021, there were 5,530 homeless people living in shelters in the Denver metro area, according to an annual count. Another 1,185 people were unsheltered, according to estimates from Denver’s Department of Housing Stability.

“(The program) emerged for us as an important element to our pandemic response as we were starting to see increases in experiences of unsheltered homelessness,” said department head Angie Nelson. "While we work to create more housing opportunities, we know we need to continue to also offer safe, temporary shelter.”

With this council approval, the campsite will operate in the parking lot from Dec. 14 though Nov. 30, 2022, replacing the campsite that has been outside of Park Hill United Methodist Church since June.

The new 15,000-square-foot campsite will be able to house up to 50 residents, including the 40 residents living at the Park Hill site. The campsite will add to two existing sites operating at Regis University and Denver Health.

The campsites provide residents with heated tents, bathrooms, laundry services, internet access, food donations, dental care, food stamps, COVID-19 testing, community service opportunities and services for finding permanent housing. The campsites are also fenced off and staffed 24/7, officials said.

This will be the sixth campsite to operate in the city in over a year. The program has housed over 120 people so far, with 17 moving into longer-term housing, 18 finding jobs and nearly all participating in over 350 case management appointments, according to Colorado Village Collaborative.