Denver’s first managed homeless encampment is set to open by the end of next week at the First Baptist Church in Capitol Hill.
The Safe Outdoor Space will shelter unhoused people in Denver during the pandemic and provide tents, cots, sleeping bags, storage, hygiene products and access to services including housing assistance, employment navigation and mental health resources.
The site obtained a temporary use permit and is now waiting on electrical and fire safety permits before it can open, The Denver Post reported. The lease for the property will last six months.
A second site, proposed for Denver Community Church on Pearl Street, will likely open soon after.
“Our community of faith has a storied presence in the Capitol Hill neighborhood and we believe that the Safe Outdoor Space is a practical way to care for our neighbors in need,” Brain Henderson, minister at First Baptist Church said.
The First Baptist Church site will house up to 30 women and LGBTQ individuals within 22 tents. The second will hold up to 50 people, accepting men, women and couples.
Two different sites were previously proposed for the project but both were shot down as a result of outrage from the surrounding business and residential communities.
Both Safe Outdoor Spaces will feature 24/7 onsite staff, in addition to rules and guidelines regarding cleanliness standards and COVID-19 screenings.
The city hopes to add one to three more sites in early 2021.
Since the pandemic began, homeless shelter services have reduced by 56%, according to Dr. Kathleen Van Voorhis, director of housing justice with The Interfaith Alliance of Colorado.
“We’ve watched our unhoused population increase at an alarming rate in Denver,” Van Voorhis said.
“As coronavirus case numbers increase daily and we face below freezing temperatures, caring for our neighbors sheltering outdoors is now literally a matter of life and death.”