Last month, Denver City Council voted 10-1 in favor of approving a contract between the City and Village Collaborative, an organization that “exists to create and operate transformational housing communities in partnership with people coming from homelessness.” Under the terms of the contract, the City agreed to contribute $899,569 “to fund two Safe Outdoor Space (SOS) sites, with amenities and services that provide outdoor accommodation for up to 100 households.” On July 1, 2020, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announced Denver’s initial partnership with Village Collaborative, the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, and other nonprofit organizations for the development of SOS sites within the City. Since that announcement, Village Collective has operated an SOS site at the Denver Community Church (1595 Pearl Street), and the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado has operated an SOS site at the First Baptist Church of Denver (1373 Grant Street). The earmarked funds approved by City Council this month will be used to fund Village Collective’s existing SOS site at the Denver Community Church.
The same day Denver approved its contract with Village Collaborative, the City of Aurora issued a request for proposals from service providers willing to establish SOS sites on private property in Aurora. According to the RFP, Aurora is willing to provide up to $450,000 of emergency federal grant money in furtherance of SOS projects. Although the exact location of Aurora’s SOS site (or sites) has not yet been determined, Aurora likely feels a growing sense of urgency as emergency winter facilities in Aurora are scheduled to close in April, decreasing the City’s shelter capacity to only 150 beds.
These measures, among others along the Front Range (like safe parking initiatives), arrive in the face of a distinct spike in the number of Coloradoans experiencing homelessness, and an undeniable housing affordability crisis, the severity of which have only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. With spring and warmer temperatures around the corner, municipalities throughout Colorado may increasingly take interest in developing SOS sites in an effort to ameliorate these crises.