A mayoral task force on the opioid crisis recommended that the city consider safe injection sites last May. In the summer, officials worked to close encampments around Kensington, closed a decades-old camp in a train gulch along Gurney Street , and bricked up an abandoned church that had become a shelter for young people using heroin among the ruined pews. Though the spaces were dangerous and decrepit, for many they offered the only safe places where they could inject heroin around friends who could administer Narcan if they overdosed.
The move disappointed local advocates of safe-injection sites, who view them as a way to manage the opioid crisis. "We already have a safe-use site in Denver," Colorado House District 8 Representative Leslie Herod told us late last month. "It's operated illegally, and it's operating because of need. That's our Denver Public Library" — specifically the Central branch at 10 West 14th Avenue Parkway, where six people overdosed during the first three months of 2017 alone — "and it's a huge problem. We need to move that population away from the library, and away from the bathrooms in coffee shops and restaurants, and move them to a place where they can get connected with services."