Model managed homeless encampment aims to educate public

Homeless advocates set up tents in a church parking lot to show what a safe outdoor space could look like.

DENVER, Colorado — As the city of Denver works to come up with a plan for how to address a growing homeless population, advocates for safe outdoor spaces for urban camping are trying to convince the public to support their idea. 

Friday, the Colorado Village Collaborative, the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado and Belong Church set up a model camp to show what the proposed areas spread across the city could look like.

In a church parking lot in Capitol Hill, the mock camp was set up in an attempt to get the public on board with the idea to build safe outdoor spaces for urban camping.

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“It’s hard to trust something that you haven’t seen work and you haven’t seen happen. Part of what we’re trying to do out here is build trust,” said Cole Chandler with the Colorado Village Collaborative. “We wanted to provide an opportunity for people to see it, to experience it for themselves, and to dispel some of the myths and concerns that surround this model.”

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The new spaces would have up to 50 tents grouped together in an area where people experiencing homelessness would have access to things like bathrooms, cots, and health services. 

Now, the groups are trying to convince people the area wouldn’t look like the camps you see on the street now.

“If we can sway the needle just a little bit to show this is not what you see every day,” said Cuica Montoya with the Colorado Village Collaborative. “A safe outdoor space isn’t sanctioning that. What it is is providing a space that is access to full sanitation.”

RELATED: Denver hopes to open first sanctioned homeless encampment next month

Among the services provided would be showers and laundry. Jennifer Kloppel, who started Showers For All, a mobile shower and laundry trailer, said she plans to drive her trailer around to the different sites seven days a week.

“When you provide access to clean clothes and clean bodies, it opens doors to lots of other opportunities: jobs, health,” Kloppel said. 

Homeless advocates said there are more than 1,000 people living on the streets of Denver and the number is rising. The groups said they hope to convince the mayor to approve at least three locations for safe outdoor spaces in the near future.

The mock camp will be open to the public all weekend. You can see it at 1615 N. Ogden St.

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