Denver, CO

Councilman proposes homeless camp outside Denver City Hall

David Heitz

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The view from the doorstep of Denver City Hall.Library of Congress

Denver City Councilman Chris Hinds has proposed erecting a legal homeless camping site outside City Hall.

The encampment, known as a safe outdoor space, would be placed between 14th and Colfax on the pedestrian mall. “It would mean the city is owning the issue,” Hinds said. “It is immediately outside.”

Hinds said he first suggested the idea more than a year ago. It was included on a list of five potential safe outdoor spaces.

But Hinds said his idea to put a camp on the front lawn of City Hall “did not make the news,” adding “I still think that’s a viable option and a good option. You’d look outside the windows (of City Hall) and see the camp right there.

“I think it’s important city leaders have a system of values and live those values.”

Neighbor tells councilman encampment can stay

Hinds brought up his idea again Friday during a Facebook live session for his constituents. The councilman spoke about the homeless encampments in Capitol Hill for about half of the 45-minute presentation.

He noted that one local resident recently contacted him to say the encampments outside her house can stay. The woman, Katie Blakey, regularly advocates for the unhoused at City Council meetings.

Some who logged on to the discussion accused Hinds of not doing enough to eliminate the encampments in Capitol Hill. Hinds responded that as part of the legislative branch of government, he does not have the power to execute policy, only make it. Policy execution comes from the mayor’s office, he said.

It's all set up as a system of checks and balances, Hinds explained.

Hinds noted that Capitol Hill is sympathetic to people experiencing homelessness because many people who live there are only a paycheck away from the street themselves. More than 90 percent are renters.

Hinds said many residents have told him that Capitol Hill should not host any more safe outdoor spaces until other parts of the city have done the same. Capitol Hill hosted the first two outdoor spaces.

Safe outdoor spaces are legal camping sites with heavy duty tents. They are located in church parking lots, college campuses and the like. Showers, restrooms and hand-washing stations are available.

People who stay at the safe outdoor spaces are linked to health services, housing and more. Hinds said the program has been an enormous success.

Denver down 200 police officers

He said several residents of the first two safe outdoor camping spaces have moved into tiny homes or permanent housing.

Hinds noted that many people don’t want to stay in shelters because they don’t want to give up their dog or be separated from their partner. Hinds sympathized and said he would not do either to stay in a shelter.

Hinds acknowledged that many residents of Capitol Hill are angry about the encampments. “And many property owners don’t live in Capitol Hill. They hear about (the encampments) and reach out and complain.”

One resident asked about growing crime in the city. Hinds responded that the police department is down about 200 officers right now. “But if someone calls 911, someone should respond,” Hinds said.

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I have been in the news business more than 30 years, spending much of my career at some of the best newspapers in the country. Today, I specialize in Denver local news, health reporting, social justice issues, addiction/recovery/mental health news, and topics surrounding homelessness and human trafficking.

Denver, CO
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