Tiny home village builders propose a temporary sanctioned camp for people experiencing homelessness

The mayor is not on board.

Denver is now operating two auxiliary shelters for the homeless, one for men at the National Western Complex, and one pictured here for women at the Coliseum. The facilities offer respite, screening for coronavirus, and sleeping areas that adhere to social distancing rules. (Hart Van Denburg/CPR News)

Denver is now operating two auxiliary shelters for the homeless, one for men at the National Western Complex, and one pictured here for women at the Coliseum. The facilities offer respite, screening for coronavirus, and sleeping areas that adhere to social distancing rules. (Hart Van Denburg/CPR News)

Donna Bryson. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The builders of Denver’s tiny home village are ready to run a temporary sanctioned camp that they say can provide safety during the new coronavirus outbreak for people experiencing homelessness.

Kathleen Van Voorhis of the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado said Monday that her group and the Colorado Village Collaborative presented the idea for what they call “temporary safe outdoor space” to top aides of Mayor Michael Hancock on Thursday. During a press conference the next day, the mayor said he doesn’t see a reason for such a camp. Hancock reiterated during the news conference that he believes providing at least a roof for those in need is the best way to address homelessness. Erika R. Martinez, a spokeswoman for the city, said in an email Monday that that remained the mayor’s position. Van Voorhis said she was still awaiting a response from Hancock’s administration.

Since the coronavirus outbreak began, the city has opened a shelter at the National Western Complex and another at the nearby Coliseum where people experiencing homelessness have the space to follow the social distancing guidelines meant to slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The city also has been securing hotel rooms for people experiencing homelessness who need to recover from illness and for those considered most vulnerable to COVID-19.

The Interfaith Alliance of Colorado helped found the Colorado Village Collaborative to build Denver’s first and only tiny home village, seen as an alternative to shelters. Radian, the architecture and urban design nonprofit that helped build the tiny home village, also had a hand in the proposal for the sanctioned camp site. Van Voorhis said the proposal laid out how the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado and the Colorado Village Collaborative would supervise such a camp and ensure it had utilities and security and met health guidelines laid out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They have requested land, funding and permitting for the camp.

“The safest, most reasonable approach during this public health emergency is to provide necessary resources to our neighbors on the streets by establishing a safe outdoor space where those continuing to live outside can maintain appropriate social distancing, engage with outreach coordinators, and have access to hand washing and health care services,” Van Voorhis said in a statement.

She added that the Interfaith Alliance, Colorado Village Collaborative and Radian “recognized the gap leaving so many on the streets, and we’re willing and eager to facilitate this project to protect the community.”

A letter backing the proposal has been signed by representatives of more than 100 homelessness service providers and faith-based and other community groups, Van Voorhis said.

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