Denver mayor pulls plug on latest potential encampment location

Mayor Michael Hancock pulled the plug Tuesday on a second site proposed for the city’s first sanctioned homeless encampment — a small strip of city-owned property in Five Points between Sonny Lawson Park and the Blair-Caldwell Library.

Originally the city’s first sanctioned encampment had been slated to open in early August as an alternative to shelters that would allow more social distancing. But the first proposed site in the Denver Coliseum’s parking lot was nixed in mid-August after substantial pushback from residents there.

The end of the Blair-Caldwell plaza site came about in a similar fashion.

The continued delay widens the gap for needed shelter space for people experiencing homelessness as city officials ramp up efforts to break up existing encampments — without proper justification, some experts say.

“There are potentially better sites, with fewer legal and practical obstacles,” Hancock said in a Facebook post. “Therefore, the virtual town halls that have been scheduled for this week will be postponed, and we will look to schedule a citywide conversation.”

The cancellation came after some neighbors — many of whom are more affluent members of the community — complained about the site, said Lisa Calderón, chief of staff for Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca, whose district includes the site.

Cole Chandler, executive director for the Colorado Village Collaborative, which will operate the encampment if and when it opens, has said he already has money to run a site for about six months. He declined to comment on the newest cancellation.

“He’s got people hired, he’s got tents, he’s ready to go, and we have nowhere to put it because of all this crap,” Calderón said.

People area already camping near the proposed site, she noted.

City officials will clear out a homeless encampment Sept. 22 at the intersection of 25th and Arapahoe streets, just a few blocks from the Blair-Caldwell plaza.

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