Denver mayor approves temporary safe campsites for homeless people


After months of reluctance, Mayor Michael Hancock gave his approval for the creation of safe temporary campsites for Denver’s homeless population during the coronavirus pandemic.,

“Due to COVID-19, the humanitarian homelessness crisis is even more serious today than it was just a few months ago. These are extraordinary moments that call for extraordinary measures, ”Hancock said in a statement released today, July 1, which notes that the mayor has approved the creation of several campsites.

“We are delighted to partner with the city and a long list of community organizations to bring this safe, dignified and human-centered model to Denver,” added Cole Chandler, director of the Colorado Village Collaborative, in the same statement. .

The Colorado Village Collaborative and the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, along with three other service providers, pushed the idea of ​​a temporary safe site for months. Their proposal quickly gained the support of a majority of Denver City Council members, major homeless service provider organizations, and several Denver state lawmakers.

However, while the initial proposal, which provided for a site for up to 100 people with access to toilets, was presented to key members of the Hancock administration in late April, it took more than two months for the mayor to approve the l ‘idea. And when he was first asked about it, he expressed considerable opposition.

“At the moment, we see no reason to create sanctioned outdoor campsites (…) in the city of Denver,” he said at a press conference at the end of April. “We are not going to go in that direction, but we will continue to work hard to create opportunities within for our residents.”

Over the weeks, however, Hancock has expressed more openness to the idea. This was particularly evident at a press conference on June 24, when the mayor said the city was considering the idea of ​​”sanctioned campsites”.

Around the same time, proponents of the proposal released the results of a survey showing that a large majority of those living and working in Denver support creating a temporary safe campsite during the pandemic.

Not only does the Hancock administration now say it supports the creation of safe temporary campsites, but today’s announcement also notes that “outreach, health and mental health officers will be stepping up their visits to the sites. camps, and the city will intensify its efforts to clean up the camps with more frequent garbage collection and collection of used needles. ”

Although hundreds of men and women still use the large temporary shelters at the National Western Center and Denver Coliseum, many still choose to camp outside. In the past two months, tents have sprung up all over downtown, on Capitol Hill and other places, especially Lincoln Park in front of the Capitol, which was closed in January for a big clean-up and then reopened.

Denver officials have alternated between leaving these sites alone, cleaning up the camps and allowing people to return quickly, and cleaning them up and cordoning areas for days. The latter approach flies in the face of federal guidelines during the pandemic: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises municipalities to avoid homeless camp sweeps because they can increase the spread of COVID-19.

Defenders hope the first site will be established within two weeks. In a statement applauding the city’s decision, Tom Luehrs, executive director of the Saint Francis Center, said, “This is a momentous decision by the city of Denver and Mayor Hancock. I believe this will translate into a safer, healthier and more dignified experience for our sisters and brothers who need to live outside during this time of their lives. I believe that everyone in our community will benefit from this safe outdoor space.

While vendors pushing the proposal say they have secured outside funding for the camps, a GoFundMe Site was created to help defer the costs of tents and sleeping bags.

In the announcement expressing his support for establishing safe temporary campsites, Hancock also indicated that he supported a voting initiative championed by City Councilor Robin Kniech that would increase the town’s sales tax by 0, 25% and would send that money to a fund dedicated to the homeless. .

“The proposal would increase housing options, rent assistance and support services. It would also increase and improve the capacity and quality of shelters, allowing 24-hour services, counseling and case management, ”according to the city.

Denver City Council is expected to approve the move to have it returned to the November ballot.


Sally J. Minick

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