DENVER — Denver City Council approved $7,525,000 in funding Monday to continue the city's support of Safe Outdoor Spaces (SOS) through 2024.
In a release, the city said $7,300,000 will come from the American Rescue Plan Act to support at least three "temporary managed campsites," and $225,000 will come from the Participatory Budget program to fund three new shower trailers.
The initiative is managed by the Colorado Village Collaborative (CVC).
“The Colorado Village Collaborative has proven the effectiveness of this innovative shelter alternative. We’re proud to continue our support here and help move many more of our unhoused neighbors from unsafe and unhealthy encampments to stability,” Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said in a statement. “Safe Outdoor Spaces are working, and clearly reducing the harms of unsheltered homelessness in Denver.”
SOS began during the COVID-19 pandemic and provides an "alternative to traditional congregate shelter facilities," according to the city. Guests stay in an igloo-shaped tent that includes a cot, storage for personal belongings and access to different services, including mental health services and housing and employment referrals.
Denver's eight SOS sites have sheltered 490 people, according to the city. More than 170 people have moved into more permanent housing from a SOS location. Roughly 410 households will be taken care of under the extension, the city said.
The city has spent more than $12 million on SOS sites since 2020.
At-large Councilwoman Robin Kniech is a big supporter of the program.
“This extension allows us to reduce unsheltered homelessness in our city. It helps people get more stability,” she told Denver7.
The cost of maintaining the SOS sites has been a common criticism. Kniech says the alternative is much more expensive.
"If you think about the alternatives of what it costs for someone to sleep on the streets, and they need emergency care because they freeze if they need police services,” said Kniech.
SOS sites were authorized under a 2020 unlisted use determination, which is valid through December 31, 2023. Kniech and Councilman Chris Hinds have proposed an ordinance that would move SOS sites under the same zoning code "that governs temporary tiny home villages," the city said.
The city is accepting comments on the ordinance through April 4. Questions and comments may be submitted to Principal City Planner Libby Kaiser at Libby.Kaiser@denvergov.org.
To learn more about Safe Outdoor Spaces, click here.