Safe and Sound Denver Now Reviews Safe-Camping Sites

After securing a spot on the November ballot for a referendum to repeal changes to Denver’s zoning code related to group living, the advocacy group Denver safe and sound has now targeted safe camping sites.

“We’ve heard a lot about temporary safe outdoor spaces lately. Here’s what we haven’t heard,” Safe and Sound Denver wrote in the first installment of a three-part email campaign from the 1st. July, which concerned the overdose death of a 34-year-old woman in a secure campsite at the end of December.

“We have a question for the mayor, city council, SOS service providers and the media: why haven’t we heard of [this woman]? Where is the transparency and accountability in this great experience? ”

Westword had reported the death of the woman in a January 15 article on secure camping sites, before the end of the forensic investigation. The autopsy report of the woman, who lived in one of the ice fishing tents set up as part of a secure women-only campsite next to the First Baptist Church in the 1300 block of Grant Street , indicates that she died of an accidental overdose of methamphetamine.

In his June 30 announcement on the city’s homelessness and housing strategy during the Denver pandemic recovery, Mayor Michael Hancock said the city would consider expanding the safe camping program by adding more capacity to Denver.

And the city was quick to offer a response to the Safe and Sound Denver campaign. “We remain deeply sorry to hear of the passing of anyone who is homeless, as we and our partners work tirelessly to help people find shelter, stability and dignity every day. Safe outdoor spaces have come into being. proven to be effective, clean and healthy alternatives to the dangers of living on the streets. They do not result in an increase in police service calls. They do not result in an increase in criminal activity in surrounding areas. are not dangerous and, as the name suggests, they are safe, “says Sabrina Allie, spokesperson for the Department of Housing Stability. “To portray Safe Outdoor Spaces, or this model of protecting people in general, as dangerous is without merit and is an attempt to exploit a tragedy for political ends.”

Kathleen Cronan, Executive Director of EarthLinks, the organization that managed the Capitol Hill site until its lease expired in May, said the woman’s death was “a tragedy for her, her family, friends and our entire community. EarthLinks followed all normal protocols to contact emergency personnel after finding She did not respond. Just as we asked at the time of her death, we are asking the community to allow her family to mourn of his death in peace.

“Clearly, the reality is that there are over 20 million people in the United States who suffer from substance use disorders and the vast majority of those people are sheltered. People die every day of disorders linked to the use of substances, in housing, in unauthorized camps. This is a very unfortunate aspect of our society, ”adds Cole Chandler, director of the Colorado Village Collaborative, who set up the other three secure camping sites in Denver. “Trying to suggest that a safe outdoor space is not safe because of this incident is incorrect.”

Substance use is prohibited on secure campsites, Chandler notes, although staff members do not actively monitor what residents are doing in the privacy of their own tents.

Low barrier and harm reduction programs, such as those offered at secure campsites currently located adjacent to Park Hill United Methodist Church and on the Regis University campus, do not require that participants undergo drug tests or be involved in recovery groups. “Our approach is to serve people where they are and to serve people,” says Chandler.

Chandler doesn’t like Safe and Sound Denver’s current approach to the concept of safe camping. “To me it was like fear,” he says. “It was as if they were implying and trying to imply that there was a causal link. ‘Because safe outer space, it happened.’ This is not true. I don’t know the story of this woman, but people have addictions, and our goal is to do our best to support these people. ”

Safe and Sound Denver emerged last summer as a citizens’ advocacy organization fighting against proposed group living changes to Denver’s zoning code that would increase the number of adults who can live together in the same household. and facilitate the installation of service providers. halfway houses, sober living homes and homeless shelters across the city. After Denver City Council approved these changes in February, Safe and Sound Denver focused on succeeding in a referendum on the Nov. 2 ballot that would repeal these zoning code changes.

Safe and Sound Denver did not respond to interview requests.


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Sally J. Minick

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