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Reader: The Greatest Measure of a City Is How It Treats Its Lowest Citizens

The first safe-camping sites opened in December.
The first safe-camping sites opened in December.
Conor McCormick-Cavanagh
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The six-month leases for Denver's first two safe-camping sites are about to expire, but the concept is not going away. Plans are in the works to open a new site in Park Hill in June. "It really is an extension of what we think to love our neighbors and love all our neighbors, especially our most vulnerable neighbors — and if we have the ability to help, we should step up and do that," says Nathan Adams, lead pastor at Park Hill Methodist Church, which shares a space with Temple Micah.

Meanwhile, neighborhood groups are urging Mayor Michael Hancock and Denver City Council to expand the program further. "The two existing Safe Outdoor Space sites...have had some remarkable success in their short tenure and it is time to scale them to provide temporary, yet sustained support to our most vulnerable," the groups wrote in a letter sent to Denver officials in March.

The Park Hill church will host two public hearings on the safe-camping site in May, but readers are already weighing in with comments on the Westword Facebook post of our most recent safe-camping site story. Says Darren:

The greatest measure of a city is how they treat their “lowest” citizens. Social responsibility: The concept that will replace qualified immunity will hold city council members and mayors accountable, too.

Replies John:

I like to think the greatest measure of a community is what we do to protect our children. Currently, we are prioritizing drug-addicted criminals over innocent children. How many more needles have to be found in playgrounds before we stand up for our children? How many more blocks have to be taken over by these garbage-filled camps before we take our streets back for families?

Responds Tim: 

The greatest measure of a city is how it treats the citizens who contribute something, not the ones who contribute nothing but societal anchors.

Explains Kelli:

 Listen, the homeless situation is insurmountable. This article is about a solution. ONE SOLUTION. We need to pitch in where there is a need. I live here. It breaks my heart. Everyone of these "campers" was once someone's baby.

Adds David:

Great idea, sure better than some of the camps i've seen in Denver. Maybe the police won't raid the mentally ill people's homes and throw away their blankets if they live here. Ever use a porta pottie when it's sub zero? This isn't exactly the Hilton. Maybe these types of camps can help the homeless transition back into real homes and any needed treatment.

Suggests Ian:

Just build another shelter, Denver: This is permanent. Stop acting like this baby step is the fucking solution. Oh no!? In the place of this vacant lot there will be a building.

And then there's this from James:

They will be gone by the All-Star Game.

In their letter to Denver officials, the neighborhood groups suggested setting up safe-camping sites in all city council districts, not just Park Hill. What do you think of that idea? And what do you think the city will do regarding unofficial encampments this summer?

Post a comment or share your thoughts at editorial@westword.com.

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