A church in University Hills wants to set up Denver’s first “safe parking” site, where individuals living out of their cars can legally park overnight.
The First Universalist Church of Denver at 4101 E. Hampden Ave. plans to seek a permit from the city for as many as eight vehicles, according to a document posted online by the church.
The church is just east of Wellshire Municipal Golf Course, and across the street from Cherry Hills Village.
Church leadership did not respond to a request for comment. The church is partnering with an organization called Colorado Safe Parking Initiative, founded in 2019, according to the plan.
That group has worked with municipalities to set up similar sites in several nearby cities, including Longmont, Broomfield, Arvada and Golden.
The church has yet to formally apply to Denver for the permit, according to a city spokeswoman.
An unattached mediator, who is working to help the church and neighborhood draft a document called a “good neighbor agreement” (GNA), said he anticipates an application will be filed in the next two weeks.
“My argument to the church was to let me get the good neighbor agreement at least firmly drafted,” said Steve Charbonneau of Community Mediation Concepts. “Then go ahead and submit the application. And in the application you can reference the GNA. Because before you seek final approval, you’re going to want a GNA that you can place with the city.”
This particular agreement, Charbonneau said, has been uncommonly difficult to arrange. While there are often substantial disputes in matters of this nature, he said, the challenge with the process that started last month has been simply getting neighbors to the table in the first place.
Documents on the city’s website state that residents of the parking program would be registered and monitored. A task force within the church recommended that only residents over the age of 18 will be admitted, and they will be vetted and selected via a process determined by the church. A port-a-potty would be provided on site, as well as an outdoor faucet and trash receptacle. Limited access to the church building, for things like showers, is under consideration as well.
Those using the parking would be allowed there from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m., according to the document.
“It is difficult to determine the number of people experiencing homelessness and living in cars,” the church document states. “It is an invisible population who are awakened in their cars and forced to move from one location to another by police officers enforcing city ordinances. The seven-county Denver metro area may have 1,000 or more individuals living in vehicles. It is possible the COVID crisis will create a wave of evictions and foreclosures this summer with a corresponding wave of newly homeless persons entering the system with their vehicles.”
Since December, Denver has had two “safe outdoor spaces,” or managed camps housing homeless individuals in tents, in Uptown and Cap Hill. They are set to move to Park Hill and the campus of Regis University next month, although some Park Hill homeowners are seeking to block the camp there.