A Denver City Council committee will consider Wednesday expanding its contract with the Colorado Safe Parking Initiative to double the number of parking lots in the city for people experiencing homelessness who live in their cars.
The city currently pays the initiative $150,000 to operate two such lots for one year. The new contract for $600,000 would provide four lots for homeless motorists with at least eight parking spots each, according to a memo from city staff the Safety, Housing, Education and Homelessness Committee.
One lot would open by the end of 2023 and a fourth would open by August 2024, according to the contract. The contract would span 30 months, from June 2023 through December 2025. The locations of the new lots are to be determined. The existing lots are in council districts four and ten.
Restrooms, handwashing stations provided
At least one of the lots would accommodate people living in RVs, if possible, the contract states. The scope of work includes:
· Supplying basic hygiene services, including portable toilets, potable water, handwashing stations, trash, and recycling.
· Orderly set-up allowing for appropriately sized spaces that comply with public health guidelines for social distancing and parking.
· Management of security within the space and the immediate area.
· A code of conduct, agreements for participation, and safety protocols.
· Providing low-barrier access, including allowing self-defined families, pets, people with active substance use disorder and behavioral health concerns that prohibit access to other shelter options. There will be no time limits or requirements to obtain services.
· Permits for guests to park in designated spaces and sign a guest agreement.
· Safe parking signage posted clearly in all lots; parking without a permit is not allowed.
· Drinking water.
· Electricity, if possible (highly recommended, but not required).
· Amenities such as access to showers, meal service, computers, clothing banks, and storage also vary by site, and are not required but are suggested services.
· Housing-focused case management/services, including acquiring public benefits and housing-ready materials. Assistance in employment placement and referrals to health, substance abuse and mental health treatment will also be provided.
· Motel vouchers and/or referrals to motels and/or emergency shelters for guests during severe weather, or for health and vehicle-repair emergencies.
Even if the committee approves the contract, the full City Council must also sign off on it.
Contract comes after passage of clunker law
The contract comes just a few weeks after the council instituted a so-called clunker law. The law requires The council requires “impaired” vehicles to be moved every 24 hours or be towed and impounded. The definition of an impaired vehicle can be any automobile that appears inoperable. Only council member Candi CdeBaca voted against the bill. Council member Robin Kniech was absent.
Working vehicles, including recreational vehicles and trailers, must be moved every 72 hours under the new law. The law requires people living in their vehicles to be warned 48 hours before a tow.
Hundreds of people living out of cars
Officials with the Colorado Safe Parking Initiative, which already runs a dozen safe parking lots on the Front Range, estimates hundreds of people in the metro area live out of their cars, according to their website.
The lots are not open to drop-in vehicles, which is one reason why locations are kept confidential. There is a waiting list of about five weeks for those who qualify, according to their website.
Churches generally host the safe parking spaces, according to the initiative's website.