Homeless

First Safe-Camping Site on City Property Coming to Clayton Neighborhood

Another safe-camping site is coming to Denver.
Another safe-camping site is coming to Denver. Evan Semon
Service providers plan to establish Denver's first safe-camping site on city-owned property in the Clayton neighborhood next month.

“We're grateful to the City and County of Denver for partnering with us to expand critical services for our unsheltered neighbors ahead of another Colorado winter," says Cole Chandler, executive director of the Colorado Village Collaborative, which will be running the site at 3815 Steele Street, next to a Denver Human Services building. The site will have space for fifty people and be equipped with uniform tents and centralized access to sanitation and services; it's slated to open in mid-December.

This will be the sixth safe-camping site in Denver since the model got its start in December 2020 with two sites at church parking lots in the greater Capitol Hill area. In June, the CVC replaced those sites with one  in a lot owned by Park Hill United Methodist Church and another in a parking lot on the Regis University campus. The nonprofit organization will also soon welcome residents at a site on a parking lot owned by Denver Health at West Eighth Avenue and Elati Street.

When a safe-camping site is on private property, the owners and the nonprofit organization running the facility only need approval from the Denver zoning administrator for a temporary use permit. But when a site is on city land, the lease requires approval by Denver City Council.


Since most members of Denver City Council have expressed support for the safe-camping site model, the Clayton neighborhood lease, which will run just under a year, is likely to be approved. Still, the first two attempts at establishing safe-camping sites on city-owned property, back in summer 2020, failed after neighbors opposed the projects and the city withdrew support.  But while the councilmember whose district includes those failed locations opposed the proposed site at the Coliseum, she supports the Clayton neighborhood plan.

"I'm thrilled that we'll be bringing the first public-owned SOS site to District 9, and we look forward to serving our constituents who need this option here," says Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca.

Many of the residents of the proposed Clayton neighborhood site will be individuals currently living at the South Park Hill site, whose lease runs out soon. The City of Denver just earmarked $4 million in federal money for the safe-camping site model in 2022; service providers expect to be serving up to 300 people at the sites by early 2022.
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Conor McCormick-Cavanagh is a staff writer at Westword, where he covers a range of beats, including local politics, immigration and homelessness. He previously worked as a journalist in Tunisia and loves to talk New York sports.