A Statement Regarding Safe Outdoor Spaces in Denver

Media Contact: Matt Lynn, Communications & Digital Manager

DENVER, CO — The Interfaith Alliance of Colorado alongside partner organizations including Colorado Village Collaborative have been hard at work to offer viable solutions to Denver’s growing homelessness problem amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Integral to these solutions are Safe Outdoor Spaces that allow for unhoused residents to safely camp in designated areas outfitted with services, security, and full-time staff. Tuesday’s announcement that the proposed sanctioned encampment site in the Five Points neighborhood would no longer be considered was a devastating blow to our vulnerable neighbors living without housing amidst a global health crisis and looming winter temperatures. 

Today we are calling upon the residents of Denver and Denver’s elected officials to recognize that homelessness is not going to go away on its own. We cannot turn a blind eye in hopes that the situation will remedy itself. This economic downturn has seen a rise in the number of unhoused individuals in our community, with the City of Denver estimating over 1000 individuals camping in the city each night. This problem is compounded by social distancing mandates created by the pandemic, which have decreased the number of available beds in our already overcrowded homeless shelters by an average of 30 percent. 

Our unhoused neighbors are here to stay. The only choice before us is how we will respond to those in need. We cannot continue the inhumane practice of sweeping encampments (a direct violation of CDC guidelines) and indiscriminate disposal of personal belongings, particularly when we have no viable alternative options in place. Those in our midst experiencing homelessness must be treated with dignity, and we have a responsibility as a community to assure all people have access to safe shelter. 

To that end, we must come together to work toward meaningful, realistic solutions to curb the homelessness problem in our city. Safe outdoor spaces will not solve Denver’s homelessness crisis, but they are a viable, meaningful step toward providing help to our neighbors in need. The funding and manpower are in place to implement these safe outdoor spaces in short order. The only barriers standing between our unhoused neighbors and the help that they need is bureaucratic red tape bolstered by the vocal few proclaiming, “Not in my backyard.” With homelessness on the rise and dangerous cold temperatures looming, we no longer have the luxury of time. We must act now as it is a literal matter of life and death. 

We implore the citizens of Denver, members of City Council, and Mayor Hancock and his staff to act with resolve to quickly identify additional safe outdoor sites. We offer our ongoing partnership and commitment to providing viable, meaningful solutions for our unhoused neighbors in need, recognizing that it is our moral responsibility to do so.