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Park Hill residents sue to stop legal homeless site from opening at a church

Park Hill residents sued a nonprofit, a church and its pastor and the city of Denver to try and prevent a legal homeless encampment from opening in their neighborhood.

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But the lawsuit has cemented the resolve of both the city and the nonprofit Colorado Village Collaborative to set up the encampment in the parking lot of the Park Hill United Methodist Church, which is also named in the lawsuit alongside lead pastor Nathan Adams.

The complaint filed Thursday in Denver District Court argues the site poses a danger to children, does not meet city requirements and “does not address the impact it will have on the neighborhood.” It also requests an injunction to keep the site from being opened.

Attorneys Heather Anderson Thomas and Douglas Baier filed the lawsuit on behalf of Park Hill residents Kurt Monigle, Dave Rodman, Jean-Baptiste Varnier, Justin Lovacand Blair Taylor.

The lawyers, who did not return a message seeking comment, also wrote the site, if opened in Park Hill, would cost residents an estimated $8,000 to move a single child from their current school “to a location in which there is adequate security and safety measures in place to protect children.”

The legal encampments are meant to be cleaner and more stable environments for those living on the streets, and organizations work to connect people who stay there with mental health and addiction services.

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Colorado Village Collaborative Executive Director Cole Chandler said the suit is baseless. This is far from the first neighborhood pushback Chandler has seen since Mayor Michael Hancock announced last year he would allow several legal encampments, as known as safe outdoor spaces.

In August, Chandler withdrew a request for one site at the Denver Coliseum parking lot after neighbors pushed against the idea. But he told The Denver Post there’s no withdrawing this time.

“This only increases my commitment to this site,” he said.

Similarly, city officials said they’ll hold fast.

“We understand the concerns, fears and questions raised by residents and will continue to partner with the Colorado Village Collaborative to address them,” Denver spokesman Mike Strott said. “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 on the streets.”

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