UPDATE: The Denver City Council voted 11-1 on Monday, Feb. 7, to approve adding $3.9 million to an existing contract with the Colorado Village Collaborative. Councilmember Amanda Sawyer voted no on the contract because she does not think it’s a good use of public money.
Denver is mulling giving safe outdoor spaces, which provide people experiencing homelessness with temporary shelter and connect them to services, funding so the nonprofit that runs them can maintain them and add another location.
The Denver City Council’s housing committee approved adding $3.9 million to an existing contract with the Colorado Village Collaborative on Wednesday, which would allow the organization to operate three safe outdoor spaces through Dec. 31 and open one additional site. The contract extension is subject to final approval from the full Denver City Council next month.
Angie Nelson, deputy director of housing stability and homelessness for the city, said the sites were an important element of the city’s COVID-19 response for people experiencing homelessness. And the pandemic has only deepened the city’s housing crisis: A report this month showed the number of people experiencing homelessness increased by more than 1,000 individuals between 2o20 and 2021, while people of color were disproportionately represented.
The safe outdoor sites use ice-fishing tents to keep people temporarily housed.
“We know these structures aren’t housing,” Nelson said during Wednesday’s meeting. “We know that the solution to homelessness is housing. But we also have a big gap in the affordable housing available to meet the needs of everybody experiencing homelessness in our city.”
The additional money would bring the overall contract to $4.79 million. The additional money for the contract is coming from federal coronavirus relief money.
Last year, the city used money from its own budget. The first safe outdoor space opened in 2020.
Colorado Village Collaborative operates three sites, including ones at Denver Health, the Denver Human Services East Office (the first site that opened on city-owned property) and Regis University. The additional money would pay for operating a fourth site, though Colorado Village Collaborative executive director Cole Chandler said the agency is still determining the new location.
The city hopes the added money and new site will help serve 370 people, up from 242 people who were served across the three sites in 2021, according to the city. Chandler said the new money will provide dedicated resource navigators and peer support specialists, who help site residents find permanent housing.
While she voted to approve the contract on Wednesday, Councilmember Amanda Sawyer said she’s not convinced the sites are the best use of public money. Instead, she said she would like to see renovations made to the shelter leased by the city to help people experiencing homelessness.
Correction: A previous article erroneously said a report suggested the number of people experiencing homelessness had doubled over the past year.