Mayor Hancock proposes sanctioned campsite in Five Points where unhoused people already camp

People would be allowed to sleep outdoors on a strip of city-owned land between Sonny Lawson Park and the Blair-Caldwell Library.

A Denver Police officer distributes notices telling residents living in encampments near Sonny Lawson Park that they must leave. Sept. 26, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

A Denver Police officer distributes notices telling residents living in encampments near Sonny Lawson Park that they must leave. Sept. 26, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photos

Two months after publicly coming around to the idea of government-sanctioned campsites for people experiencing homelessness, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announced Saturday that his administration is eyeing some city-owned land in Five Points for the experiment.

In a Facebook announcement, Hancock framed the idea as a deal not yet done. He also emphasized that the sites would be temporary and staffed 24 hours a day.

“No final decisions have been made and would not be without first engaging with the community,” Hancock stated. “We are just beginning to meet with neighbors and the community about this potential site, with three virtual town halls being scheduled for next week.”

The difference between sanctioned and unsanctioned campsites in Denver.

The sanctioned campsites would exist on a plaza between Sonny Lawson Park and the Blair-Caldwell Library along Welton Street. Campers would have about 14,000 square feet that would hold 33 tents and a maximum of 40 people, according to the Colorado Village Collaborative, which would manage the site.

People experiencing homelessness camp in this area already, though it’s technically illegal.

President of Curtis Park Neighbors Jeff Baker said he supports the idea of sanctioned camping — he and his neighborhood organization already help unhoused residents who live at the site — but also said it is up to “the community” to decide whether the proposed site is the right one.

“It’s not like build it and they will come. They’re already here,” Baker said. “So there’s got to be a better way. (Sanctioned camping) gives stability, they can keep their stuff safe and move forward in life, and they’re also going to get concentrated outreach.”

The city government’s first choice for a sanctioned campsite was outside the Denver Coliseum, but Elyria Swansea residents rejected it.

During his 2019 reelection campaign, Hancock consistently rejected the idea of government-sanctioned campsites for unhoused residents. But he changed his tune in July after the pandemic challenged the indoor shelters and other parts of the city’s infrastructure to address homelessness.

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