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City of Denver, mayor announce opening of newest tiny home village despite ongoing neighborhood objections

Micro community is largest to open in Denver since mayor launched new housing first initiative
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Posted at 4:53 PM, Mar 11, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-11 23:10:59-04

DENVER — The City of Denver will open its newest and largest micro-community on Tuesday, with the capacity to house nearly 60 individuals who are facing homelessness.

Denver Mayor Mike Johnston announced the opening at a media walk-through on Monday.

The site, which sits just off Santa Fe Boulevard and Evans Avenue, is called La Paz, and is completely fenced off and enclosed.

Despite that, there are still very vocal neighborhood objections to the site.

Denver mayor announces opening of new tiny home village, neighbors still object

“The zoning meeting was a fiasco,” said neighbor Douglas Danger. “The way they handled it was terrible. They treated the neighbors like we were third-class citizens. You’ve dumped this in our neighborhood — what are you going to do for the neighbors for taking this on?”

In his more than three decades living in the Overland neighborhood, Danger has witnessed a lot of change. But the city’s new micro-community is a change he and his neighbors have struggled to accept.

“There is no real plan for safety, and the city does not listen,” he said.

The mayor and his team are undeterred by those neighborhood objections, ready to open up Tuesday.

“If you’re looking at the beautiful tiny homes you see all around you, those were designed through our partnership with Oakwood Homes,” Mayor Johnston said at the site on Monday. “A huge thank you to Oakwood Homes, who’s been our local partner and provider.”

The 60 tiny homes were built in Colorado, all part of the mayor’s House1000 initiative now called All In Mile High.

All of the tiny homes are outfitted with a bed, a floor heater and a desk. The village also has two community rooms on-site.

“They feature showers, bathrooms, kitchen, laundry,” said Jose Salas, spokesperson for the city of Denver.

The village is low barrier, which means there are no requirements — including drug tests — needed to move in. This is consistent with Johnston’s housing first initiative.

“That means we do not screen up front to say, ‘Have you already gone through a drug rehab program? Have you already gone through a workforce training program? Have you already completed mental health services?’” Johnston said. “What we know is that it’s very hard to receive those services if you’re living in a tent every night and not sure if you’re going to freeze to death or get attacked in the middle of the night.”

“We have a no-drugs-and-alcohol policy,” said Dede de Percin, CEO of the Colorado Village Collaborative. “But we’re also not one strike you’re out.”

The Colorado Village Collaborative will operate the site, which features multiple security cameras and 24-hour staffing.

“We will do intakes tomorrow when people arrive here and start connecting people with services right away,” de Percin said. “We also will have on-site peer counselors, case managers, resource navigators — I mean all those services will be here from the get-go. We find that every neighborhood we go into — it starts a little stressful and then it chills out.”

Danger isn’t so convinced, especially after recently visiting the encampment at W. Colfax Avenue and Umatilla Street that will be shut down by the city on Tuesday and relocated to the new tiny home village.

“This is what you’re going to dump in my neighborhood?” Danger said. “I’m a sprinkler guy now by trade, and I’m not afraid of nothing. I go into crawl spaces full of spiders and snakes. I went to that site, and I’ve never been more fearful in my life of anything. I openly saw three people shooting up. I watched a guy defecate right in the middle of the road.”

The micro-community will start out with 60 tiny homes with the ability to double in size depending on how things go.

In terms of the costs, Johnston and his team estimate each tiny home costs the city about $25,000 per unit. That does not include infrastructure improvements to the site like Xcel Energy service and concrete pads. But it’s much less than the estimated $100,000 it costs the city per hotel room they are opening up to the homeless.

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