Op-Ed: Denver Needs to Create a Safe Public Camping Space

The city has been cleaning up encampments in Curtis Park this month.
Evan Semón
The city has been cleaning up encampments in Curtis Park this month.
I have lived in Curtis Park for 25 years. It is a wonderful village — part of Five Points — filled with caring people from diverse backgrounds.

Unfortunately, we have become witnesses to the proliferation of tent camping. It is the biggest degradation of minority people that I have ever seen in Denver, and it is sanctioned by Mayor Michael Hancock. The Department of Transportation and Infrastructure is deployed to clean up, but everyone is allowed to remain after the cleaning. They have brought a bathroom trailer, but that is it. Mayor Hancock refuses to include a plan for a public campground, which could currently happen at the Denver Coliseum, where there is an indoor shelter that allows for social distancing. There is more than enough space to create a campground there as well.

The pandemic has brought with it valid concerns for safely accessing congregative shelters and, whether it aligns with his philosophy of getting folks indoors or not, Mayor Hancock must acknowledge that people are camping and that isn't likely to change any time soon. The city's neglect of this burgeoning homeless population is unnecessary and inhumane.

They deserve running water, a place to store and cook food, and general sanitation that is available to everyone else. They deserve to wake up every day with some hope for a better future. Denver is a beautiful and prosperous city. The affluent and middle class enjoy a life of abundance and beauty. Surely we can stretch our benevolent muscle and create a safe, appropriate and dignified outdoor space for our neighbors in need.

I urge Mayor Hancock and his staff to approve and create a public camping space immediately, and hope that those of you reading this will implore him to do the same.

Westword occasionally publishes op-eds and essays on matters of interest to the Denver community. Have one you'd like to submit? Send it to [email protected], where you can also respond to this piece.

See our slideshow of the recent Curtis Park cleanup here.