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//The proposed homeless campsite at the Denver Coliseum would seek to eliminate encampments in residential areas, such as the one near Morey Middle School (pictured above). Photo by Esteban Fernandez | sovereign73811b@gmail.com

Homeless welfare made itself a prominent issue at Monday’s Denver City Council meeting. Concerns overlapped regarding the use of the Denver Coliseum’s parking lot as a campsite for the homeless, as well as the imminent clearing of both the Coliseum and National Western Complex as shelters.

“This is just the legalization of the camps that are already there,” said GES Coalition representative Alfonso Espino. “And a desire for the city to move the nuisance of its problems away from the city center and towards where the problems have always been, and for us to deal with once again.” 

Residents of the Globeville and Elyria-Swansea area directed their ire at city council members over the plan to move homeless residents to the Denver Coliseum parking lot during the public comment portion. Concerned that the proposed campsite would be built over a former superfund site, several speakers pointed out that homeless residents would not only be potentially exposed to toxic elements but also to noise from the nearby highway. Other speakers said they felt the entire public process was not transparent, with one resident calling the decision-making process sneaky and underhanded. Espino told councilmembers the only true solution was to build more housing.

Later in the meeting, Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca grilled Chris Conner, the director of homelessness resolution at Denver’s Department of Housing Stability, about the end of the city’s contract with the National Western Complex and Denver Coliseum to function as temporary homeless shelters. 

Conner said that between the Coliseum and National Western Complex, the temporary shelters will reduce their shelter capacity by about two-thirds. Women and Trans people who currently use the Coliseum as a shelter will be vacated out of the building on either Aug. 3 or 4. Around half of them will be allocated to motels, and the remainder will go back to shelters that filled that role pre-pandemic. Conner also said that those shelters have been reorganized for social distancing and 24/7 operation. 

After about a week, the building will be prepared for 300 male homeless residents who currently shelter at the National Western Complex so they can move into the Coliseum. The remaining 300 male homeless residents at the National Western Complex will be referred to “smaller targeted shelter programs,” according to Conner. The moves will take place on Aug. 10, with the National Western Complex emptying by Aug. 11. 

The reason for the drawdown is that the city’s contract with the National Western Complex is ending. A resolution to extend the contract with the Western Stock Show Association from July 15 to Aug. 15 was approved at the meeting. The cost of doing so will put the city back an additional $835,000, which includes repairs the building before returning it to the stock show association.