Ever since UpDoNA’s inception in December of 2021, the Safety & Quality of Life Committee (S&QOLC) has seen the importance of moving people off street corners and into shelter. The presence of illegal campers on the streets of Denver was bad for them and was also bad for the residents, businesses and visitors who live, work and play here. The committee worked with Mayor Hancock during his administration, and it has worked with and supported Mayor Johnston in his House1000 Initiative.
Today, we are pleased to report that Upper Downtown is 100% encampment free! As each encampment is closed, every camper is offered housing, and nearly every one accepted. It feels safer walking around our neighborhood, and it must feel better for the campers to be out of the elements, especially with the sub-zero that Denver just experienced. This means that the short-term goals are seeing success.
While there is reason to celebrate, it is important that UpDoNA members are conscientious about reporting individual tents that are seen in Upper Downtown. It is quick, easy and effective to use the Safe and Clean app. If you don’t have that app on your phone, you are urged to download it and use it often. You can get it at https://apps.apple.com/us/app/clean-safe-downtown-denver/id1569231012 for Apple users and https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.eponic.appService.denver for Android users. Members of the committee use it every time a tent is seen, or trash needs to be addressed, and it has been remarkably effective.
The committee is continuing to work with the city to ensure that the mayor’s program also has long-term success. During a S&QOLC meeting with Sabrina Allie of the Department of Housing Stability (HOST) there was extensive discussion regarding the efforts that the city will make to help every individual overcome the reasons that caused their homelessness and work their way into permanent housing and a self-sustaining life. The good news is that plans are in place to make that happen. However like everyone else, the city is experiencing staffing problems, and it is working to staff each facility properly by holding job fairs and attracting case workers using other means.
The committee continues to address security around the facilities to ensure that the impacts to the communities surrounding each facility are mitigated. As a result of experience with the Aloft Hotel, the committee has strongly recommended to the administration, City Council and HOST that private security be hired to patrol the area surrounding each facility on a regular and frequent basis. Further, we have recommended that the security officers be required to report every illegal incident that they see to the police. At this time, it does not look like that is happening, and the indications are that those areas will be patrolled by the Denver Police Department. The committee will continue to press for significant security presence.
The maintenance of the facilities was also discussed. The S&QOLC believes that each of those facilities must be properly maintained to ensure that they are available and desirable for future campers to move in to. There will be subsequent discussion on this subject with HOST in the future.
Upper Downtown is seeing improvements, and the Mayor is seeing short-term success with the House1000 program initiative. Long-term success will be determined by the city’s ability to 1) keep the swept areas tent free, 2) provide a path to self-sufficiency by helping the individuals overcome the problems that initially made them homeless, 3) minimize the impacts to the surrounding communities due to the new shelters, and 4) maintain the facilities properly so that they can be used for future residents. UpDoNA’s S&QOLC will continue to work with the city to help ensure long-term success.
Thumbnail attribution: Rob Squire