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Denver to fund at least four more 'safe outdoor spaces' for the city's unhoused population

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The type of tents at Colorado Village Collaborative's "safe outdoor spaces."
Credit: Colorado Village Collaborative

Update: Feb. 8, 2022

DENVER — Denver's City Council in a Feb. 7 meeting approved a $3.9 million contract for Colorado Village Collaborative (CVC), the organization that operates multiple "safe outdoor spaces" (SOS) in the city.

The money will be used to build a minimum of four SOS sites. The sites, which are fenced off, provided unhoused people with heated shelter, bathrooms, laundry, internet, food, and resources to help residents find permanent housing.

There are currently three SOS sites in Denver. They are located at the Denver Human Services (DHS) East Office, Denver Health and Regis University.

Of 242 people who have stayed at SOS sites since the program started, 47 of them (about 1 in 5 residents) have found more stable housing, according to Cuica Montoya with CVC, who spoke at the council meeting. Montoya said an additional 20 people have been connected to housing vouchers.

“I’m not thrilled to death with the Safe Outdoor Spaces," District 6 Councilman Paul Kashmann said. "I wish we didn’t need them. People deserve dignified housing with a door that shuts and a place to store their stuff, and we all know we don't have enough of that in the city and county of Denver right now."

"While they're not my wildest dream," Kashmann said of the safe outdoor spaces, "they’re well managed and I think they’re an alternative that needs to be part of our toolkit.”

At-Large Councilwoman Robin Kniech agreed with Kashmann that SOS sites are not the "best option" to address homelessness and affordable housing, but she praised the sites for being an "immediate" solution that reduces unsanctioned camping.

Kniech implored people to ask themselves, "Would they rather have people sleeping in parks, sidewalks, alleys near their home, or would they rather have folks in an organized environment a sanitary environment with supervision 24 hours a day from staff, and with services to help them on a journey to stability? That's the choice we face today."

Only one member of City Council, Amanda Sawyer, voted against approving the contract. Sawyer, who represents District 5, has opposed the safe outdoor spaces in the past, instead advocating for more investment in indoor shelters.

You can read our previous story on safe outdoor spaces, published in November of last year, below.

Original story

DENVER — Starting in December, city-owned property in Denver will serve as a safe outdoor space for unhoused people for the first time ever.

On Tuesday, November 9, Colorado Village Collaborative (CVC) announced in a news release that it is partnering with the City and County of Denver to establish a safe outdoor space at the Denver Human Services (DHS) East Office in the city’s Clayton neighborhood.

The site will open December 14 and stay open until November 30, 2022.

“This site will mark the first time city property is being used for Safe Outdoor Space,” Denver’s Department of Housing Stability executive director Britta Fisher said in the news release. “We are glad to help support Colorado Village Collaborative and help grow this model that has provided residents another path from our streets to stability in Denver.”

The safe outdoor space at the DHS office will replace the site that is currently set up at Park Hill United Methodist Church. Park Hill residents who were against the safe camping site unsuccessfully sued CVC and the church.

According to CVC, “many of the 40 residents at the Park Hill SOS” will move to the DHS location, but the new location also has space to accept more people. CVC says the DHS site, which is 15,000 square feet and will have 24-hour staff, can house 50 residents.

"Today is a day to celebrate forward progress for the health, dignity and belonging of our unhoused neighbors,” CVC’s executive director Cole Chandler said in the release. “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.”

In the video below, Chandler explains the benefits of the organizations’ safe outdoor spaces.

CVC AdminSOS Introduction

Safe Outdoor Spaces are working in Denver.

In addition to shelter, the DHS site will have cots, food, and assistance for people looking for permanent housing.

In Denver, the number of people without homes has increased drastically over the past year. Moreover, the the number of people experiencing homelessness for the first time doubled since 2020, according to a point-in-time survey.

In CVC's news release, Clayton resident Jes Discoll is quoted saying, "I know that tents aren't the forever solution, but helping people gain some stability through a safe place to sleep each night is a huge step in the right direction."

CVC also operates a safe outdoor space at Regis University, and will open another near Denver Health the week of November 15.

For more information on CVC’s safe outdoor spaces, click here.

Earlier this year, Rocky Mountain PBS highlighted another project from CVC: a tiny home village in Denver’s Cole neighborhood. You can read more about that below.


Kyle Cooke is the digital media manager at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach him at kylecooke@rmpbs.org.

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