Although partnering organizations have yet to file a formal application to open and operate Denver’s first sanctioned homeless encampments in Capitol Hill, those opposed — some high profile — are wasting no time.
Since officials proposed the two sites last week, Councilman Chris Hinds — who represents the district — said he’s received about 100 emails on the topic, estimating that about 90 were against the notion. Opponents include residents, business people and Pete Coors, vice chair of the Molson Coors Brewing Co.
The proposed sites are on the properties of First Baptist Church in Capitol Hill and the Denver Community Church’s uptown location on Pearl Street.
“I find it appalling that the citizens of Denver soundly opposed homeless camping on city property yet City Council finds ways around our wishes and laws by establishing homeless encampments on private property in our neighborhood,” Coors wrote in an email obtained through an open records request. “Homeless enclaves, whether on public or private land bring unwanted health and safety issues.”
Coors, who did not respond to a request for comment, asked Hinds to reject the proposal.
But the decision doesn’t rest with City Council. Rather, the sites only need a temporary zoning permit through Denver’s Community Development and Planning Department, said city spokeswoman Laura Schwartz. As of Tuesday morning the Colorado Village Collaborative — which would operate the encampments — and the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado had not yet submitted an application for that permit, she said.
Others in the area wrote to Hinds to express concerns about safety and hygiene, and a fear that the encampments would become permanent.
Denver officials ran into opposition over two city-owned sites previously proposed for the encampments, which Mayor Michael Hancock committed to create this summer. He pulled the plug on each at the urging of neighboring businesses and residents.
Much of the pushback relies on incorrect information, said Travis Leiker, president of the Capitol Hill United Neighborhoods organization, which supports the current proposals.
“They’re citing no security. There will be security. They’re citing a lack of cleanliness. There will be access to sanitation services,” Leiker said. “They’re citing permanence. This is not permanent. This is a near-term solution to an otherwise permanent problem.”
Homeless advocates have expressed disappointment that there has been no concrete progress bringing legal encampments online in the city and say the pandemic — and impending winter weather — have exacerbated a need for them.
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