The Coliseum, which has hosted a homeless shelter since the pandemic began, could have sanctioned camping outside.
The Colorado Village Collaborative is set to manage Denver’s first sanctioned camp site. The nonprofit has been talking with neighbors about placing it on the Coliseum parking lot. Sanctioned camping, like the shelter at the Coliseum for women and transgender individuals and a men’s shelter in the nearby National Western Complex, is seen as a way to address the needs of people experiencing homelessness during the coronavirus emergency.
Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca, whose District 9 includes the Coliseum and National Western, expressed concern but not opposition to the proposed site.
“We will work with any situation because of the urgency of the need, but we hope to see a site in every district within the next month,” CdeBaca added in a statement Thursday. “We cannot continue to concentrate inequities in a single neighborhood or district just because it is the most politically convenient option.”
Cole Chandler of the Colorado Village Collaborative said in an email that he understood that neighbors were concerned about hosting sanctioned camping at the Coliseum. Some residents in neighboring Globeville strongly objected when the Colorado Village Collaborative established a tiny home village, an alternative to shelters, in their neighborhood last year.
“We are in a public health crisis and we have to take collective action to make space available for those who don’t have a place to stay safer at home,” Chandler said.
He said the Coliseum lot offered enough space for 50 tents and was close to transit and a third of a mile from the nearest residence, making it “as good as any option we’ve seen for a first site.”
The mayor’s office proposed the Coliseum lot as a site, Chandler said. His nonprofit had looked at three privately owned sites, but they were either too small, too costly, or presented problems because of their zoning, he said.
Conversations with neighbors were continuing, Chandler said. The next step would be for a license agreement to be presented to City Council. Chandler said he hoped council’s vote on the agreement would happen late this month or in early August.
Chandler, a District 9 resident, said he was eager for other neighborhoods and districts to host the next sanctioned camp site.
Michael Strott, a spokesman for the mayor’s office, said the administration was still receiving recommendations on other possible sites from City Council members.
“The Coliseum is under serious consideration as a location for one of the safe outdoor spaces,” Strott said.
Mayor Michael Hancock announced on July 1 that he was reversing his long-held opposition to sanctioned camping because the coronavirus had “introduced a new reality.” Hancock has said that two or three camps, each accommodating 50 tents, would be in place for the duration of the coronavirus emergency. During a news conference on Wednesday, Hancock said conversations were underway with neighbors on a site he did not name, and that he hoped to make an announcement in the coming days.