Denver Mayor Michael Hancock this week announced the creation of outdoor camping areas in the city for those experiencing homelessness.
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The Colorado Village Collaborative, which operates the Beloved Community tiny home village in Denver, has proposed a Safe Outdoor Space concept to provide emergency support to people experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kathleen Van Voorhis, Congregation Land Campaign Manager at The Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, part of the Colorado Village Collaborative, says the COVID-19 pandemic has lead to increasing numbers of people experiencing homelessness.
“We’ve seen hundreds of new homeless individuals in the city of Denver and around Colorado. That number is going to continue to grow. We’ve seen multiple research studies that all indicate that we’re going to see, at a minimum, a 45 percent increase in homelessness across the nation. Currently in Colorado, we’re looking at about 300,000 individuals who are at risk of eviction. These are all glaring numbers at the fact that right now, while we see an increase, we’re going to see an even exponential increase in the next few weeks as evictions roll out.”
Van Voorhis says the outdoor camping spaces are just one component of a strategy to help those experiencing homelessness during the pandemic.
“So short term solutions being a safe outdoor space where we can provide health checks and resources with an ultimate goal of still trying to get these individuals into permanent, sustainable housing and programs.”
The exact location of the sites will be announced shortly and Van Voorhis expects the first site to open in the next two weeks.
“We looked really at a multitude of different sites. We do currently have a short list. In the next few weeks we’ll be releasing where the first site would be. What’s going to happen is we’re gonna go ahead and start up that first site, get all the services functioning, get people fully into it. Then through continued fundraising with the Interfaith Alliance and continued planning with RADIAN, we’re going to move forward into our second site. But the goal is really to get the first one up and going as soon as possible.”
The city has been criticized for ongoing sweeps of homeless encampments during the COVID-19 pandemic despite recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which say dismantling encampments risks further spread of the coronavirus.
Watch a video about Denver’s homelessness crisis and the Beloved Community tiny home village: