Denver, CO

Group wants 11 legal homeless campsites in Denver

David Heitz
Colorado Village Collaborative

Several members of a group calling itself the Unhoused Action Coalition called upon the City Council Monday to create a safe outdoor space in every council district for people experiencing homelessness.

Safe outdoor spaces are legal campsites. People experiencing homelessness live in heavy-duty tents erected on the sites. Showers, restrooms and meals are provided as well as mental health care. Most sites are run by Colorado Village Collaborative, a non-profit.

A plan to put a safe outdoor space in each council district would mean 11 safe outdoor spaces operating simultaneously in the city. Currently, the city only operates about two safe outdoor spaces at a time.

A question on the November ballot would cap the number of safe outdoor spaces in Denver at four. The city opposes the ballot measure because it also requires the city to clean up encampments within three days of a complaint. That would violate a court-ordered agreement specifying the city must give seven days’ notice before an encampment sweep.

Judy Trompeter represents Uptown on the Hill and Unhoused Action Coalition. She said encampments are in every council district, and services must be provided where they are. “Winter is just around the corner.”

Lucia Brown said she represents the Baker neighborhood, which also is active with the Unhoused Action Coalition. The latest safe outdoor space to go up will be at 8th and Elati on Denver Health property.

Only two council members respond to letter

Brown said the Unhoused Action Coalition sent every council member a request to open a safe outdoor space in each district. She said only two council members, Robin Kniech and Chris Hinds, have responded.

“We ask that you address all of the council as a whole,” Councilwoman Stacie Gilmore interrupted.

“Help us find a safe outdoor space in each of your districts,” Brown said.

Resident Jill Collins said someone living in a homeless encampment recently broke into her home. “Imagine getting a call at work that an intruder had broken into your home swinging a crowbar.” She feared for the safety of her child and husband.

She pleaded with the city to do better at managing the encampments and keeping the community safe. “I work for a neighboring community government, and I know what’s possible,” Collins said. “My home was destroyed.”

Gunshots frighten resident

She said she recently heard gunshots outside of her home. The shootout involved a meth dealer, she said. “I live with trauma and fear a lot. These could be the experiences of any of you.”

One speaker said the city needs to consider placing safe outdoor spaces on public property since it’s difficult to find private property owners to host them.

John Deffenbaugh of the RINO Arts District also expressed concerns about the unsanctioned campsites. Several speakers said people experiencing homelessness are not getting the drug treatment they need. “We don’t have options readily available for those folks.”

A speaker named Jennifer represented the Colfax district and the Unhoused Action Coalition. She said the city needs to open more safe parking spaces as well as safe outdoor spaces.

Speaker plays recording of Gilmore

Speaker David Hagan played a recording of Gilmore speaking at a previous meeting. “We ask that you address City Council as a whole,” Gilmore interrupted the recording, where she could be heard saying, “If I turn away anymore” and “This is worldwide, come on.” The context of the recording was not immediately clear.

“I respectfully ask you to please be quiet while the video is playing,” Hagan said, before he was cut off online.

The final speaker of the night during public comment time was Brandy Majors. “Stacie Gilmore, what’s with this censorship,” she asked. “This is a public forum. Think about what you’re doing and do the right thing or resign.”

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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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