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Reader: Each Denver Council District Should Have a Safe-Camping Site

The model safe-camping site at 1615 Ogden Street.EXPAND
The model safe-camping site at 1615 Ogden Street.
Conor McCormick-Cavanagh

What would an official safe-camping site look like in Denver? That's what the proponents of the Safe Outdoor Spaces program would like to show you.

"I think people don’t understand what we’re proposing. A lot of people think that we would sanction camping like it currently exists. What we’re trying to do is show how this is different," says Cole Chandler, director of the Colorado Village Collaborative, one of the organizations pushing the plan to put several small camping sites, with services, around Denver.

But so far, two proposed locations for such sites — in the parking lot of the Denver Coliseum and by the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library — were shot down after neighbors objected. So this weekend, Coleman and other program supporters have set up a model of a safe-camping site in the parking lot of the Belong Church at 1615 Ogden Street, so that people can see what they're proposing.

You can visit the site today, October 4, from noon to 4 p.m. And in the meantime, here are just some of the comments posted on Facebook in response to our story about the open house. Says Roy: 

Every Denver City Council district should be required to host one of these safe-camping sites, so that people really know what is happening in their own back yard. That's where sites should be.

Counters Jason:

It would be in the mountains, with other regular campsites.

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Responds Robert: 

These are occupancy sites...not camping. Because — get this — they are surviving, not camping. There are no s'mores.

Says Reem:

I love how homelessness is treated like leprosy was before modern medicine, like its sufferers must be banished and hidden instead of treated or helped. Surely, it costs less to provide proper housing for these struggling people than it does for Trump to get his hair “did” for golfing.

Concludes Brandon:

People before property.

After first hesitating about the Safe Outdoor Spaces program, Mayor Michael Hancock signed on in July; his administration is working on locating potential sites — but also on educating the public.

"Certainly, everybody is concerned and cares about where, but we also want to talk about what and how. This is a chance for people to interact with that," says Britta Fisher, executive director of Denver's Department of Housing Stability. "There will be a really concerted effort to talk about what a temporary managed campsite looks like before we bring forward sites."

Will you visit the model safe-camping site today? What do you think of the proposal? Post a comment or email your thoughts to editorial@westword.com.

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