DENVER (KDVR) — The Denver City Council on Monday approved nearly $4 million to expand a campsite program for those suffering from homelessness. The money comes from American Rescue Plan Act funding.
Temporary campsites that are regulated have sprung up across the city over the past year. Since late 2020, with sites on Capitol Hill, Denver has expanded its outdoor camping program to Regis University, Park Hill, the Denver Health area and the Clayton neighborhood. Neighbors sound off when “Safe Outdoor Spaces” are constructed next to homes.
“They camp out in the back alleys or they go cause fights,” said Davida Gonzales, who lives near the Denver Health site.
The criticism comes despite Denver and site operators insisting locations are regulated with a focus on hygiene and “good neighbor agreements.”
“I did see a knife altercation right in front of the camp just a week or two ago,” said Emily Ostrander, who lives near the Denver Health site.
Some Denver council members said neighbors will express concerns as the camps move in, but then they see their fears are not realized.
When the program first started, Denver spent $899,569 for a year to house people at the sites. On Monday, Denver council members approved allocating $3.9 million in federal funding to expand the SOS program.
“I believe that the people of Denver overwhelmingly think that it’s better for people to be in a supportive, sanitary environment,” Councilwoman Robin Kneich said during the Monday council meeting.
There was a lone vote against the allocation from Councilwoman Amanda Sawyer. She was critical of the city and said Denver has had other options to offer permanent housing but passed on the opportunities.
“I’ve heard a lot of conversation tonight … from council members … saying that there aren’t other options — but there are,” Sawyer said during the meeting.
In 2021, 242 people were served at the locations and 47 people were transitioned into stable housing, according to the city.
For 2022, Denver projects serving 370 people with a goal of moving 90 people into housing. If successful on that goal, that’s a cost of $43,333 for each person’s permanent placement.
The newly allocated funding will support at least four camps, a city spokesperson said. The city said any future camp locations have not been determined yet.