Park Hill residents are suing in an attempt to block a safe outdoor camping site

DENVER — Five Park Hill residents have filed a lawsuit in an attempt to block another safe camping site for homeless people from going up to Park Hill United Methodist Church early next month.

The trial was filed by attorneys Heather Anderson Thomas and Douglas W. Baier on behalf of residents Kurt Monigle, Dave Rodman, Jean Baptiste-Varnier, Justin Lovac and Blair Taylor in Denver District Court Thursday against the Colorado Village Collaborative, City of Denver, Park Hill United Methodist Church and its pastor, Nathan Adams.

The existence of the lawsuit was first reported on Friday by Westword.

They claim in a complaint and a request for a preliminary injunction that the proposed safe campsite should be prevented from moving to the intended location because it “did not meet the requirements established by the city, poses[s] a real danger to minors and school-aged children, fails to consider the impact it will have on the neighborhood, and moves people from an area with available resources to an area not equipped to handle the objective.

Colorado Village Collaborative managed the secure camping space outside the Denver Community Church at 16th and Pearl, which opened in December with a six-month lease, and planned to move the site to the Park Hill Church despite some opposition from the community after the church said it would host the site.

Park Hill United Methodist Church has a long history of involvement in missions and social justice issues and we are always trying to figure out how we can actually do the things we say we support,” Laura Rainwater, pastor church executive, told Denver7 last month.

“I really hope the neighbors of Park Hill can hear me say authentically that we want to be good neighbors,” Cole Chandler, executive director of the Colorado Village Collaborative, also said at the time.

Chandler said the Uptown location has been successful in bringing homeless people into longer-term housing and taking care of their mental and physical health.

A second secure campsite at Denver’s First Baptist Church on Capitol Hill is also expected to move to a new location in early June at a parking lot at Regis University northwest of Denver.

The Regis and Park Hill venues could accommodate up to 100 people, officials said.

The lawsuit filed by Park Hill residents claims nearby schools and preschools would be endangered due to a lack of security at the sanctioned campsite, create headaches for residents parking in the neighborhood les days when the church is in session, there are not enough existing services for people living at the site, and the site has not been approved through a process with the involvement of the audience.

Plaintiffs asked the District Court to approve a preliminary injunction barring the site from entering Park Hill United Methodist Church in the coming weeks.

Chandler, in a statement on Friday, said the Colorado Village Collaborative was undeterred by the lawsuit, which he said contained “well-founded arguments that we have heard before.”

“The plaintiffs started a fire under us. We are here to ensure that this fire does not turn into an untamed flame that would reduce our progress on the ground, but into this kind of sacred fire that brings the community together to make it safe, warm and whole,” the statement read. “Gathered around this fire, we look forward to the day when justice will prevail and the forces of discrimination, so pervasive in our society, will be defeated.”

Mike Strott, spokesman for the mayor’s office, said the city supports the efforts of the Colorado Village Collaborative.

“We understand the concerns, fears and questions raised by residents and will continue to partner with the Colorado Village Collaborative to address them. We are proud of HVAC – it will take a city-wide approach to provide safer, healthier and more dignified options for our homeless neighbors than living on the streets,” Strott said in a statement.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys did not immediately respond to phone calls seeking comment on Friday.

Denver7’s Liz Gelardi contributed to this report.

Sally J. Minick