4
Soon to be home to a safe-camping site.
Soon to be home to a safe-camping site.
Denver Arts & Venues

Reader: Every City Should Provide a Safe Campground for the Homeless

The city has chosen its first site for the Safe Outdoor Spaces program: The parking lot by the Denver Coliseum, which already houses a temporary, 24/7 shelter for people experiencing homelessness during the pandemic, will soon house a safe camping site that can hold up to fifty tents. At the camp, occupants will also have access to other services that could help get them off the streets.

Mayor Michael Hancock has asked Denver City Council members to recommend spots in their districts that might work as additional safe camping sites. Only a handful replied...but readers have plenty of suggestions and opinions on the subject.

Says Debbie: 

I think using city-owned parking garages, in a central location, for safe camping (with the portable showers/toilets units set up, and security), would be a good use for facilities that are not going to be utilized in the foreseeable future. They offer shade, dry space when it rains, yet are open air to keep folks safer from COVID transmission. The Denver Performing Arts Complex isn’t going to get used for parking until next spring; the convention center is already set up for medical, and I can’t imagine staff uses much of the parking garage space. They could also set aside some floors for people who are having to live in their cars as a safe place for them to park, and also offer the mobile bathrooms, mobile laundry unit and security guards.

Thank you. I have tried to send this suggestion to city council and mayor, but have not heard back.

Notes Steven:

Every city and town should have to provide a campground with strict rules and sanitation. To solve local homelessness, we should provide no services except real housing. 

Suggests Steven: 

Areas like across from Evans station under bridges and on the Platte River trail between Denver and Englewood, and Cherry Creek trail by Mississippi and Santa Fe, and off the river in certain locations where portable toilets can be managed and sanitizing stations can be replenished by the city. Civic Center is just too much in one area, and the Stock Show is gonna be used someday, and the homeless will make it look unappealing in ways. Putting camps and small shelters, aka small houses, on the river would be not in the middle of interstate highway traffic with people getting hurt by accidents and so forth. It also eliminates all the problems with tourism and people coming into Denver saying it looks like "homeless city," and locals saying the rivers look like crap. As long as there are plenty of trash cans, portable bathrooms and daily/weekly clean-ups to be maintained by both the city and homeless population combined.

Comments Colleen:

There is a prison near Hudson that is empty. Seems the perfect long-term place for them and the violent destroyer protesters.

.Explains Brendan:

Let's be honest: Denver (and surrounding areas) has waged war on the homeless starting before 2012. Luckily, the homeless population has had some good help along the way to give them a little rights and protection, but not without loopholes that are often exploited when it's convenient. The pandemic has allowed the homeless population to camp without fear of being moved; to be honest, the streets are noticeably more filled with campers and the accompanying trash, filth and human waste that so often collects around these areas. It’s a real problem. I would only assume that Denver will allow the “safe camping” in an attempt to move these humans to this location and start reinforcing the camping ban.

Because, if you remember correctly, now they have “another option.” This is the premise that it was ruled unconstitutional in the first place by a Denver judge back at the end of 2019. It has become bad press to enforce the camping ban during COVID and this solution….is just another political weapon to use against them. Ohhh, it will get them out of our beautiful streets of Denver…what a hoot!....Win, win for Denver.

I wonder how concerned they will be about diseases spreading like Hep C and hazards for needles? That's the exact public health crisis that causes breakups of encampments all over Denver, and this is what we are proposing to create. I do hope mental health issues, PTSD and drug abuse are addressed to get these good people back to a rewarding life, and that this is not just a way to literally sweep them under the mattress in an attempt to push an agenda and win a war that has been raging for over a decade. The war on the homeless….

And Marianne offers this response to a previous commenter:

I think the "safe camping site concept" should exist only as a temporary measure. Aaron commented, “Why is there ZERO talk about tackling the root causes of homelessness? Substance abuse, mental illness, and veteran PTSD?” He’s right — I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen these mentioned or discussed in mainstream media... and the causes he refers to can't be addressed until these individuals are given the stability of a home first. Without this stability, any aid rendered won’t have a chance to stick.

Think to yourself about having a counseling session while homeless. Instead of being able to concentrate on advice, you’re filled with dread knowing that after the session ends, you’ll be returning again to the dangers of the streets with no hope or end in sight. Maybe the few possessions you had have already been stolen. The things you might be most worried about now is when you’ll be able to eat again, when you’ll have your next shower or use of a bathroom, or if the mentally unstable person who camps near you will assault you again. If you have children, it’s exponentially worse.

The fact that there will soon be many more people forced from their homes due to the pandemic and resulting job loss means this problem needs the kind of permanent solution that other cities have successfully implemented, which is to buy up aging hotels to house them, then bring in professionals as needed to help them get back on track as much as possible. That sounds costly, but it’s actually less expensive than what we’re already doing or have done in the past.

What do you think about the site by the Coliseum? Is it a good start, or a detour? What should the city do to truly address the issue of homelessness?

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.

 

Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.

 

Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.