Homelessness is a city-wide issue, but the urban core, including parts of District 10, bears the brunt of this growing crisis. As the Mayor's office puts it, District 10 is "ground zero" for our city's homelessness crisis, and many would say Denver is the center of our state's crisis.
We continue to receive an incredible amount of outreach about homelessness, and we want to provide a point-in-time update of what we know.
16th and Pearl
As of last week, I understand all unsanctioned camping near the 16th and Pearl Safe Outdoor Space (SOS) is gone, and the city and neighbors have removed all trash. Having unsanctioned camping near our SOS test sites isn't a good situation for anyone. Unsanctioned camping threatens the success of the SOS sites, and I believe SOS sites are a critical short-term answer we must give a fair chance to succeed. Having SOS sites as an option is, in part, due to a "failed federal [housing] policy." We are doing what we can in Denver, but SOS sites address gaps in a shelter system that falls short for people in wheelchairs, people with pets, folks who want to stay with their partners, or those who have experienced violence in a shelter.
I know many of you are upset to see the return of unsanctioned camping. Now that the camping is no longer there, I want to hear your thoughts on 16th and Pearl to understand any reservations you might have about the SOS model.
Of course, you can also reach out directly to the SOS nonprofits and faith-based leaders. Colorado Village Collaborative and Denver Community Church are hosting their next Good Neighbor meeting for the 16th & Pearl SOS on Thursday, January 14th at 7 pm. There is no need to register beforehand. Use this Zoom link to access the meeting. Good Neighbor meetings for this location will take place on the 2nd Thursday of each month through May 2021.
17th and Pearl
An unsanctioned campsite also recently caused a fire at 17th and Pearl. The fire destroyed a local business and put unhoused and housed neighbors in danger. Simply put, this can't continue and isn't safe for anyone. Neighbors will tell you that this car wash has been used as shelter by people experiencing homelessness for years, but this location is now fenced off and unavailable for business or camping.
Constituents have reached out about the next steps of this property. We've reached out to the Mayor's office and the property owner for any clarification they might have.
Colfax and Gilpin
The 1400 block of Gilpin had quite a bit of experience with unhoused neighbors in 2020. Early in 2020, several people camped at the south end of the block, including on the Warren Church property, until the property was fenced off for the construction of new housing at Warren Church.
Campers also took shelter on the north end of the block at the vacant Burger King property. After this location closed, the control of the property shifted to Burger King corporate offices, and it was difficult to locate someone in corporate who could speak authoritatively on who is - and who is not - permitted on their private property. It took some time to locate someone and create a line of communication.
A fire also burned out of control on this site, causing destruction of property and charring grass, but we received no reports of injuries.
We have learned from adjacent neighbors that, as of last week, this location no longer has unhoused neighbors camping and all trash has been collected.
13th and Pearl
13th and Pearl has had unhoused neighbors along the sidewalk and in the alley for months. However, we've recently received word that the encampment is growing and the right-of-way has been obstructed. We continue to engage with the Mayor's office to find humane solutions for housed and unhoused residents alike. Of course, everyone's safety is a top priority.
10th/11th and Acoma
An enforcement action took place on January 7th near the intersection of 11th and Acoma. Adjacent housed neighbors and businesses continue to report concerns about this location, including reports of gunfire and resulting injuries. Several of those who were affected by the enforcement action appear to have relocated just a block or so away. We continue to connect adjacent neighbors and businesses with the Mayor's office so this location remains a priority area for service providers and outreach teams. We must ensure the safety of our unhoused and housed neighbors.
Channel 7 / Racines
The unsanctioned encampments adjacent to the former Racines and Channel 7 properties were relocated as of late December 2020. If you know otherwise, please contact 311. You can also email my office at email@example.com, and we can ensure services, outreach, and awareness gets to these unhoused neighbors as quickly as possible.
Please let us know if you hear of other locations in District 10 where people experiencing homelessness are living in unsanctioned camps. We want to advocate for everyone, including our unhoused and housed neighbors.
Based on responses to our January newsletter, we have received reports from you about the following additional locations:
- Washington between 14th and Colfax (next to Natural Grocers, added 1/12)
- 19th and Park Avenue (added 1/13)
- 16th and Park Avenue (added 1/13)
- 18th and Emerson (added 1/13)
- Bluebird Theater (added 1/14)
- 3300 E. Colfax (Paradise Cleaners, added 1/14)
- 10th and Cherokee/Bannock (added 1/14)
While there were encampments at these locations, it is our understanding that none of these sites currently have unhoused neighbors:
I will continue to tirelessly advocate for fast-tracking new ideas to serve the housed and unhoused constituents of District 10. I'm also hopeful Initiative 2B funds will have a strong impact, although I know it will take time to accumulate those funds. HOST also published an updated 2021 action plan after incorporating public comment.
The executive branch and I continue to communicate about how to address this crisis. HOST, Denver Police, DOTI, and other organizations are partnering to identify stronger, better solutions. As just one example, Denver recently launched the Early Intervention Team with hopes of connecting one, two, three or small groups of campers with resources, shelter, housing, family, treatment and care. The idea is to address concerns quickly and early so encampments don't grow larger.
For those interested in hearing from the Chief of Police, the Mayor's Office, and the Department of Safety regarding safety and security downtown, the Downtown Denver Partnership will host a community town hall on Wednesday, January 13th at 3 pm. Attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions and share feedback. Register for a chance to share your input as we continue working together to build a safe and thriving center city.
The homelessness crisis is accelerating, and our district is ground zero. We made progress in 2020, but there are many people not served by our current shelter system that resort to living in unsanctioned camps. The SOS sites immediately filled to capacity, demonstrating that more innovative solutions are desperately needed to address unsanctioned camping.
To make sure your voice is heard as I set my 2021 priorities, please take 7 minutes to respond to the District 10 constituent survey.