|Denver's experiment with sanctioned homeless camps
Safe Outdoor Spaces 101
What is a Safe Outdoor Space (SOS)?
It's a property where homeless residents may camp or park their cars, sanctioned by the City. Denver's Zoning Administrator has sole authority to issue permits, in all neighborhoods. The sites were originally defined as "temporary."
What does "temporary" mean?
The current end date is 21 days after City and State COVID-19 health orders expire.
Now the Mayor, City Council, and Zoning Administrator want to extend the end date to December 31, 2023 for "economic impact" reasons.
How many unhoused people are in Denver?
According to the Denver's Point in Time report, the city has approximately 4,000 homeless residents. Homeless = no permanent residence.
Approximately 1,000 are actually unsheltered. Unsheltered = living on the street, not in a shelter or temporary housing.
65-70% of unsheltered people have addiction and/or mental health challenges.
Sanctioned camps do not eliminate unsanctioned camping. Only 2 in 20 -- or 10% -- of unsheltered people actually accept the services offered by the City.
Have SOS sites been tested elsewhere?
Yes. Sanctioned camp sites operate in Portland, Seattle, and San Francisco, among others. City officials and service providers always say they are successful.
Sanctioned parking sites are currently operating in Boulder and Longmont with original sites in California, North Carolina and Texas. An October 2020 Boulder report states a successful program is one where a resident moves from the parking lot to housing within 2 years, and acknowledges clients are "shelter averse."
How long can a site operate?
There is no limit. They can stay as long as the owner of the property allows. Denver's first two sites were open for 6 months. Regis University's site permit is for 1 year.
What does it cost?
The current 1-year contract between the City and Colorado Village Collaborative for 2 camp sites with a total of 100 individuals is $899,569 with a total program cost of $1,023,869.
A similar program in Austin estimated annual costs of at least $1.39 million for an encampment of 50 people and $1.87 million for a 100-person camp.
A proposed parking site at First Universalist Church in southeast Denver has not disclosed costs, but Longmont's SafeLot states $150,000/year to support 10 people.
How does this impact my neighborhood?
Outdoor camp sites and parking sites can be placed in all neighborhoods. Only the Zoning Administrator and the property owner need to agree. No notice, no recourse for neighbors.
What can we do?
Give your input for the public hearing
Camp sites and parking sites will be allowed until December 31, 2023, if Bill 21-0592 passes. There is a public hearing on Monday, July 12th. Contact your Councilperson and urge a NO vote for the extended end date.
Authorized and paid for by Safe and Sound Denver Issue Committee