park hill campsite

Tents are set up in the parking lot of the Park Hill United Methodist Church at 5209 Montview Blvd. in Denver as the site becomes the city's fourth Safe Outdoor Space — a managed campsite for homeless residents to stay.

The Denver City Council governance committee unanimously advanced a license agreement Tuesday that would allow the establishment of the first managed homeless camp on city property.

The agreement will now go to the full council for two final votes in the coming weeks. If passed, Colorado Village Collaborative will be cleared to lease the parking lot of the Human Services East Office at 3815 N. Steele St. for the campsite.

“(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 Angie Nelson with the Department of Housing Stability. "While we work to create more housing opportunities, we know we need to continue to also offer safe, temporary shelter.”

If approved, the campsite, called a Safe Outdoor Space, 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 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.

Though this would be the sixth campsite to operate in the city in over a year, some council members still expressed doubt over the program, questioning its value compared to traditional homeless shelters.

“I am not one of the people who is celebrating people living in tents,” Councilwoman Kendra Black said Tuesday. “I just really think we need to get people with roofs over their heads.”

“This model, as unideal as it is … is a harm reduction tool,” Councilwoman Robin Kniech said in response. “Our goal can’t be making (homeless) shelters the place that everyone goes or it will fail.”

Cole Chandler, executive director of Colorado Village Collaborative, also defended the program Tuesday, saying it has only had two police interactions over the last year and 14% of camp residents have moved on to permanent housing thanks to the services provided.

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, Chandler said.

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

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