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2 Safe Outdoor Spaces for people experiencing homelessness planned for Cap Hill

The sites will be located on the properties of First Baptist Church at 1373 Grant St., and Denver Community Church’s Uptown location at 1595 Pearl St.

DENVER — Two permitted locations for Safe Outdoor Spaces to shelter unhoused people in Denver are planning to open in Capitol Hill in December – but first, organizing groups will hold community meetings for input.

The Interfaith Alliance of Colorado has joined with Radian Inc, Colorado Village Collaborative, Earthlinks, Capitol Hill United Neighborhoods and Uptown on the Hill to organize the camps for those experiencing homelessness amid the coronavirus pandemic, a news release from the Interfaith Alliance reads.

The sites will be located on the properties of First Baptist Church at 1373 Grant St., and Denver Community Church’s Uptown location at 1595 Pearl St.

Interfaith Alliance said each Safe Outdoor Space will feature onsite staff, rules and guidelines for residents, security services, strict cleanliness standards, coronavirus screenings, and direct access to services including housing assistance, employment navigation and mental health resources.

Last month the alliance and other groups set up a model camp to show what the proposed areas spread across the city could look like. 

>> Video above: Safe Outdoor Space model homeless encampment aims to educate public

Before the sites officially open, the organizing groups will hold virtual community meetings and facilitate an interactive online forum to gather input and field questions from nearby residents and business owners.

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A spokesman for Interfaith Alliance said the sites do not need approval from Denver City Council because they’ve already approved some zoning changes – City Council recently voted to approve funding and zoning code changes that had previously restricted certain sites from consideration as Safe Outdoor Spaces. 

First Baptist Church of Denver and Denver Community Church emerged as leading contenders for locations within Denver’s District 10 to pilot this best-practice initiative, with hopes of 1-3 additional sites being identified elsewhere in the city in early 2021, Interfaith Alliance said.

RELATED: Denver neighborhoods speak out against sanctioned campsites for homeless

“Our community of faith has a storied presence in the Capitol Hill neighborhood and we believe that the Safe Outdoor Space is a practical way to care for our neighbors in need, ” said Rev. Dr. Brain Henderson, Minister at First Baptist Church. “We're encouraging everyone in the surrounding community to learn more about the Safe Outdoor Space initiative. A great amount of thought and care has gone into ensuring these sites will be safe, well managed, and orderly while providing a real path for people to find permanent housing.”

Dr. Kathleen Van Voorhis, Director of Housing Justice with The Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, sees the Safe Outdoor Spaces as a crucial tool for addressing Denver’s homelessness crisis in the midst of COVID-19.

“Due to economic downturn, evictions, and a 56 percent reduction in shelter services due to coronavirus guidelines, we’ve watched our unhoused population increase at an alarming rate in Denver,” said Van Voorhis. “As coronavirus case numbers increase daily and we face below freezing temperatures, caring for our neighbors sheltering outdoors is now literally a matter of life and death.”

Homeless advocates last month said there are more than 1,000 people living on the streets of Denver and the number is rising.

The two community meetings are planned for:

  • 6-8 p.m. Nov. 19
  • 10 a.m.-noon Nov. 21
  • Information on joining the meetings via Zoom webinar as well as more about the Safe Outdoor Space model can be found at sos.konveio.com

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