Park Hill UMC is a site for a city-sanctioned Safe Outdoor Space (SOS), providing temporary shelter for the unhoused in our community. After much discussion within a variety of groups, including the Park Hill UMC Missions & Social Justice Committee, the congregation is pleased to put its beliefs of helping the poor into action. Many of Park Hill’s neighbors have questions about this project, but it’s important to support the unhoused in Denver. There are resources on the Park Hill UMC website to learn more about the Safe Outdoor Space program. The program helps about 50 people and started June 1 and will run through December 31.
Why Park Hill?
The Safe Outdoor Space program ended up at Park Hill because they were simply willing to host. Others stopped because of ownership, parking use, legal issues, liability issues, etc. Park hill said yes because they already had a committee on affordable housing as an offshoot of its social justice/mission committee. The committee was looking for ideas to be engaged in a program that could hook to both a short-term solution and long-term impact for the city and neighborhood.
This subgroup mobilized when the opportunity came to collaborate with Colorado Village Collaborative for one of their SOS sights.
Mimi Finn, a very engaged member, and also involved in other social justice issues, had contacts other people didn’t.
God’s timing was right
This past spring, the Colorado Collaborative was beginning to feel a bit desperate in that they were looking to have to shut down for a lack of a site for the project. The Park Hill housing group and the Colorado Collaborative timetables simply met. About 15-20 church members are actively engaged in the project by volunteering at the site, delivering meals, walking the neighborhood picking up trash, and generally promoting neighborliness in the neighborhood.
A large number of people have given money for meals or set-up costs; as more in-person worship and activities open up, it is expected that individual engagement will rise also.
In mid-June, there was a grand opening with members of the church coming out to welcome the new SOS residents and to walk around the Park Hill SOS site.
So often churches are stuck with how to practically implement their faith. “I really love this idea because it is a way to put our faith into action. So many of our churches have additional spaces or huge lots. To be able to think outside of our box is really amazing. For Park Hill, it is exciting for the church after everything has been practically shut down for so long. For other churches it’s a way of practically serving our neighbor. It’s also a way to energize the congregation when you can see the direct impact,” said Manuel Aragon, an active leader in the Mission & Justice Committee and the affordable housing subgroup.
For more information contact: Park Hill UMC, firstname.lastname@example.org
. The church is located at 5209 Montview Blvd., Denver, 80207, 303-322-1867. Or visit their website at www.phumc.org
Written by Kathryn Witte, Mountain Sky Conference Secretary to GBGM