DENVER (KDVD) — Homeowners in the affluent South Park Hill neighborhood told FOX31 they were surprised to learn they will soon be living next to a homeless encampment.
The temporary setup is scheduled to open this summer on the grounds of Park Hill United Methodist Church at 5209 Montview Blvd.
Those suffering from homelessness will be moved from Capitol Hill to the South Park Hill location — farther from the Downtown Denver core and into more of a suburban atmosphere. South Park Hill is known for its large brick homes and is home to some of Denver’s elite. Even a U.S. senator calls the area home.
By June 1, a full-service encampment will be established on a parking lot behind the church, according to organizers. The setup will remain until Dec. 31.
“At first I was a bit miffed on it,” said South Park Hill resident Rich Giannotti.
The news came as a surprise to Giannotti and many others. Most South Park Hill residents would not talk on camera when asked to share their thoughts.
“It’s NIMBY — not in my backyard,” Giannotti explained. “So, if the closer you are to the church, the more affected you are.”
While every resident who spoke to FOX31 on Wednesday expressed compassion for those who are unhoused, they also voiced concern. A commonly expressed concern and criticism is moving the camps from one location to the next does not solve the larger societal issue of homelessness.
“I think it’s a plus,” said church member Tony Sauls. “I’m sure there’s going to be major concern.”
Sauls has lived in this neighborhood for 30 years. He said the effort is part of what Christians are called to do.
“Help with the need of our citizens within our community,” he explained.
Through a city partnership, the Colorado Village Collaborative is responsible for the location. It said it is working to pull people out of homelessness. The organization promises that its Safe Outdoor Spaces are staffed and managed 24/7 with bathrooms, showers, trash and laundry services, and COVID-19 testing. There will be 45 separate shelters serving 50 people outside the church, according to the organization.
Residents said they are anxious to have their voices heard at upcoming community meetings.
“The people that go [to these meetings] should not feel intimidated by asking any question … so long as the question is based on solving the problem,” Giannotti said.
The following event and meetings have been scheduled:
- Saturday, May 1 from 10a.m.-11:30a.m. — Tour a Safe Outdoor Space @ 1595 N. Pearl St.
- Thursday, May 13 from 7p.m.-8:30p.m. — Community Information Meeting via Zoom
- Saturday, May 15 from 10a.m.-11:30a.m. — Community Information Meeting via Zoom
More information can be found at https://www.coloradovillagecollaborative.org/safe-outdoor-space