DENVER — For many people in the Park Hill neighborhood, they’re just starting to hear word that a safe outdoor space is on its way.
"I believe it was disbelief. It just didn’t seem logical that they would put a homeless camp on a paved parking lot of the church," said David Smith who has lived in the neighborhood since 1979.
Understandably, there’s a million questions of what it will look like. At the same time, there’s also frustration with the lack of communication from Park Hill United Methodist Church that this was in the works.
"I think they should have been very proactive," Smith said.
Laura Rainwater, executive pastor at Park Hill United Methodist Church, said it was never their intention to disregard the community.
"It just came out before we were ready. We felt we needed to tell our church first," Rainwater said.
After seeing the success of the safe outdoor space outside Denver Community Church, Rainwater says they felt comfortable bringing sanctioned camp to the neighborhood.
"The Park Hill United Methodist Church has a long history of being involved in missions and issues of social justice and we’re always trying to figure out how we can actually do the things we say we support," said Rainwater.
Part of the success at the Capitol Hill site has been the work of Cole Chandler, executive director of the Colorado Village Collaborative.
"Five people in tiny homes, two into housing so far and we’ve got two more who are about to be moving out," Chandler said.
Chandler said only the people who live in the safe outdoor space will have access to the services they provide.
"We bring mental health and physical health and dental health to the site. We bring outreach workers and case management to the site, we bring meals to the site every single day, we have trash and bathrooms and all the things that we all need in order to survive," Chandler said.
Although the thought of this new site coming to Park Hill may worry neighbors, he’s committed to easing concerns through proof of their work.
"I really hope that Park Hill neighbors can hear me authentically saying that we want to be good neighbors," Chandler said.
For president of the Capitol Hill United Neighborhoods, Travis Leiker, there were concerns before the current Capitol Hill SOS was built but after seeing the work of the Coloradao Village Collaborative, their concerns were eased.
"When these were announced or launched last October of 2020, while there were concerns, we feel pretty optimistic as it relates to their overall efficacy since being operational," said Leiker.
Neighborhood meetings are scheduled to take place in the coming weeks. The new site is set to open June 1.