DENVER (KDVR) — Denver is preparing to build 11 micro-communities to house the homeless, with construction on the first one slated to begin this week on Santa Fe Drive.

The project is part of Mayor Mike Johnston’s plan to house a thousand unhoused residents by the end of 2023. The new micro-community at 2301 S. Santa Fe Dr. will provide communal restrooms, shared kitchens, laundry rooms and trash removal.

“I’ve looked at the pallet homes online, and they look like they would be decent places to live,” Jack Unruh, of the Overland Neighborhood Association, told FOX31.

Unruh said neighbors had the opportunity to express concerns to the mayor’s office.

“Mostly about cutting back on the numbers, cutting back on the size,” Unruh said.

Others are worried about crime.

“Who’s going to vet the people who are going to be there? Are they going to be sex offenders, all drunks, all drugs? We don’t know,” resident Mike Acosta said.

FOX31 learned the micro-community will be fenced and have security gates.

Joy Fagan founded the Safe Harbor House organization and is a former jail chaplain. She said based on her experience, those provided with resources must also follow rules and be held accountable for their actions.

“The more we talked to them and built relationships with them, the more we realized that the only reason that they’re still out there is that they’re not ready to stop using,” Fagan said.

Aerial view of tents lined up along Eighth Avenue in Denver
Denver cleared this homeless encampment along Eighth Avenues between Logan and Grant streets and moved dozens of people to a converted hotel shelter. (KDVR)

Advocates: Shelter is the first step

Advocates for the homeless disagree, saying transitional housing opens the door to recovery.

“Once you don’t have to worry about where you’re going to sleep at night, where you’re going to get your next meal, whether you’re going to be able to stay in the same place, you can really start to address the other issues,” said Cathy Alderman, of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.

Johnston’s office issued a statement: “This future micro-community will help get unhoused neighbors off the street and into safe, stable, supportive transitional housing while also helping us close unsafe encampments and keep neighborhoods closed to future camping.”

Unruh said an effective plan will benefit everyone.

“We’re looking forward to working out a good-neighbor agreement,” Unruh said.

The mayor’s office said every site is researched based on its impact on public safety, health issues, transportation and zoning.