In advance of the city's planned April 30 cleanup of twelve blocks in Five Points where homeless encampments have popped up, Denver service providers are pitching the idea of establishing a temporary "safe outdoor space" to city officials.
"If we can provide them with hygiene and provide them with medical care and with testing and food and a safe area ensuring social distancing, we can not only keep them safe, but also keep the community safe," says Kathleen Van Voorhis of the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, part of a group of service organizations spearheading this proposal, which has been in the works for weeks.
The group has yet to get an official response from the city, but readers have been quick to weigh in. Says Renee:
Sad to see people living like this, but good to hear that city may be flexible in considering options.
No, this is entirely inconsistent with the camping ban. We as a society should be providing actual shelter to the homeless, not some third-world refugee camp.
The providers in this article have worked with people experiencing homelessness for decades. Obviously, housing is the best option, the most cost-effective and most humane. However, for those rare individuals that cannot stay in housing, or seem to thrive more without, there should be a discrimination-free area for them to live and access services if need be.
It's just so sad. If our state and many more had more knowledge of mental health and more resources we could make a difference. Breaks my heart people are so harsh towards the homeless. Every life matters.
Everyone is advocating that we give them a place to go and provide shelter, but the city has done that. They set up two large shelters at the Coliseum and the National Western Complex. These people have chosen not to go to the standard shelters or the emergency ones that have been opened. How does that saying go? “You can lead a horse to water...”.
I daresay shortly a whole bunch of the self-important are going to have an added perspective on people experiencing homelessness.
And Carol concludes:
I agree. Between the out of work and the inability to pay hospital bills, the homeless population may grow significantly.
The proposal calls for establishing a safe site — the location has not been determined — where up to 100 homeless residents can set up tents without fear of being displaced by encampment sweeps for the duration of the pandemic. Similar projects have been developed in response to the COVID-19 crisis in Tampa Bay, Portland and Aspen.
Nonprofit entities would staff and manage the area and provide case management, and faith groups would assist in providing food, tents and sleeping bags. Those pitching the proposal are hoping to get some financial assistance from the city, but also say that they can manage the funding themselves if the city says its budget is too tight. All of the major homeless-service providers in Denver have signed on in support of the concept.
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