Things are going smoothly at Denver’s second sanctioned homeless campsite as the City Council prepares to vote on extending the Colorado Village Collaborative’s contract to operate the sites throughout the year.
During CVC’s monthly meeting Thursday night, officials said operations at the Safe Outdoor Space at Denver Community Church have been successful since it opened in December.
“It’s been an honor,” said Cuica Montoya, who runs the site. “I’m excited to be there on a daily basis.”
Montoya said five of the residents have moved out of the site and into more permanent tiny home villages, including one resident who recently celebrated 30 days of sobriety while living in the campsite.
In addition, two residents have secured jobs, 34 tickets against residents have been cleared through community service and eight residents have begun critical dental care, including one who has been fitted for dentures.
The site has also provided food stamps to numerous residents and is holding its second COVID-19 testing event Friday.
So far, Montoya said the most significant challenges have been staffing shortages due to staff members having to isolate when exposed to COVID-19.
“Even with all these great successes we continually have to balance with the regular everyday challenges of operating an outdoor shelter in a pandemic,” Montoya said.
Originally intended to close by the summer, Denver’s City Council is now looking to extend these Safe Outdoor Spaces for the remainder of 2021.
Cole Chandler with CVC said the organization was chosen by the City Council to operate two city-funded Safe Outdoor Spaces throughout the year.
“When we originally brought the proposal forward … we only suggested that we would operate this through the pandemic,” Chandler said. “But the funding that the city made available is to operate through 2021.”
In addition, a third Safe Outdoor Space will be opened and operated by the St. Francis Center.
The location for the third Safe Outdoor Space has not yet been decided; however, Chandler said it will not be in District 10 since the Denver Community Church site is already the district. It is expected to open in March or April.
The site in Denver Community Church will still close on May 31 as intended, but will be relocated to a new site for the rest of 2021. It is unclear what will happen to the first site currently operating adjacent to the First Baptist Church.
The Denver Community Church camp, made up of 30 tents, filled with 39 residents and multiple pets as soon as it opened its doors on Dec. 15.
With some of the residents now graduating out, CVC is reaching out to individuals on the waitlist that was started when the site first opened. Montoya said they had to cap the list at 100 people because demand was so high.
“People are so excited to get into our programs,” Chandler said. “That is reflective of the kinds of relationships that we’ve built and our commitment to directly impacted people.”
Montoya said CVC keeps the site’s population representative of Denver’s unsheltered homeless population.
According to 2019 data, 55% of Denver unsheltered are people of color. Right now, 45% of the site's residents are people of color, so the next round of residents chosen from the waitlist will all be people of color.
CVC is currently airing out and sanitizing tents to prepare for the new arrivals.
The Denver City Council will vote Tuesday to approve CVC’s contract to operate the Safe Outdoor Spaces through 2021.