NewsLocal News


Park Hill residents file lawsuit to try to block safe outdoor camping site from neighborhood church

Park Hill United Methodist Church
Posted at 5:14 PM, May 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-07 20:12:19-04

DENVER – Five Park Hill residents have filed a lawsuit in an attempt to block another safe camping site for people experiencing homelessness from going up at the Park Hill United Methodist Church early next month.

The lawsuit was filed by attorneys Heather Anderson Thomas and Douglas W. Baier on behalf of residents Kurt Monigle, Dave Rodman, Jean Baptiste-Varnier, Justin Lovac and Blair Taylor in Denver District Court on Thursday against the Colorado Village Collaborative, city of Denver, Park Hill United Methodist Church and its pastor, Nathan Adams.

The existence of the lawsuit was first reported Friday by Westword.

They claim in a complaint and a motion for a preliminary injunction that the proposed safe camping site should be stopped from moving into the planned spot because it “has not met the requirements set out by the city, pose[s] a real danger to minors and school-aged children, does not address the impact it will have on the neighborhood and displaces people from an area with available resources to an area not equipped to handle the purpose.”

Colorado Village Collaborative has run the safe camping space outside of Denver Community Church at 16th and Pearl, which opened in December with a six-month lease, and has been planning to move the site to the Park Hill church despite some opposition from the community after the church said it would host the site.

"The Park Hill United Methodist Church has a long history of being involved in missions and issues of social justice and we’re always trying to figure out how we can actually do the things we say we support," Laura Rainwater, the executive pastor at the church, told Denver7 last month.

"I really hope that Park Hill neighbors can hear me authentically saying that we want to be good neighbors," Cole Chandler, the executive director of the Colorado Village Collaborative, also said at the time.

Chandler said the Uptown location has been successful in getting people experiencing homelessness into longer term housing and caring for their mental and physical health.

A second safe camping site at the First Baptist Church of Denver in Capitol Hill is also expected to transition to a new location in early June at a parking lot at Regis University in northwest Denver.

The Regis and Park Hill sites would serve up to 100 people, officials have said.

The lawsuit filed by the Park Hill residents claim that nearby schools and preschools would be put at risk because of a lack of security at the sanctioned campsite, would create headaches for residents parking in the neighborhood on days church is in session, that there are not enough existing services for people living at the site, and that the site was not approved through a process with public input.

The plaintiffs have asked the district court to approve a preliminary injunction blocking the site from going in at the Park Hill United Methodist Church in coming weeks.

Chandler, in a statement issued Friday, said that Colorado Village Collaborative is not deterred by the lawsuit, which he said contained “well-funded arguments we have heard before.”

“The plaintiffs have lit a fire underneath us. We’re here to ensure this fire does not grow into an untamed flame that would burn our progress to the ground, but that sacred sort of fire that gathers community together to be made safe, warm, and whole,” the statement said. “Gathered around this fire, we look forward to that day when justice will prevail and the forces of discrimination, so prevalent in our society, will be defeated.”

Mike Strott, a spokesperson for the mayor’s office, said the city stands by the Colorado Village Collaborative’s efforts.

“We understand the concerns, fears and questions raised by residents and will continue to partner with the Colorado Village Collaborative to address them. We stand proudly with the CVC – it will take a whole-of-city approach to deliver safer, healthier and more dignified options to our unhoused neighbors than living out on the streets,” Strott said in a statement.

The attorneys for the plaintiffs did not immediately respond to phone calls requesting comment Friday.

Denver7's Liz Gelardi contributed to this report.