This past Wednesday, The Colorado Sun ran a story with this headline: “How one block on Pearl Street represents Denver’s stubborn homelessness crisis.” The reporter was Jennifer Brown, who covered all the bases: the homeless people, the fearful neighbors, the unsanctioned camps, the sanctioned camps, the District 10 City Council representative, having problems to protect his restaurant, and the city’s overall government working to right the ship to help people with no home.
I do not live near a massive encampment, but a lot of people live near it. This encampment is located at Pearl Street and East 13th Avenue. But it is not the only one, for sure. About two blocks away from where I live, there is another large encampment at East Park Avenue at Emerson Street. It’s across from a construction site, and the tents huddle near a fence around a surgery center.
The story in the Sun is still fresh. Earlier this week – the day of the Inauguration – it was a happy day with happy tears, happy music, and a wonderful poem. It should be like this just about every day, but this just cannot happen.
There are sanctioned camps in Capitol Hill and North Capitol Hill, who provide services, help, food, sanitary facilities – and rules; now, even when it is supportive, it still is January because it is so cold. A recent virtual meeting to discuss these camps, one of the people speaking noted that to offer shelter to, say, 1,000 homeless people, it would require something like 43 of these camps. Most neighborhoods probably wouldn’t want them at all.
The city is working with hotel buildings to provide for those with no homes, and buying buildings that can be adapted for those who need homes. Voters in November approved a tax that would generate some $40 million to providing shelter.
Britta Fisher, who heads Denver’s relatively new Department of Housing Stability, says this: “For me, this work usually comes back to humans and housing,” (she) said, noting that 20 million Americans — housed and unhoused — struggle with drug addiction. “It is incredibly difficult to get to a healthy place without that foundation of housing.”
If this current administration had created a Department of Housing Stability a while ago, things might be better for people who have a home, but developers may have sucked up all the air to build apartments to make more money. We know how Denver works, and it was a boom town. Then, now, perhaps not so much.
Now, that’s the cold side of the situation, but for people who live nearby, it is a problem.
These two paragraphs sum it up by the reporter:
“What began last fall as a small encampment with a few quiet people who are homeless has grown exponentially since mid-December. Now it’s a temporary home in Denver’s Capitol Hill neighborhood for about 20 men and five women, their tents lining both sides of the sidewalk and leaving a narrow path for pedestrians.
“The block is strewn with clothing and spoiled food, and there are syringes and foil with the remnants of heroin or meth. Urine-filled soda bottles sit just outside the tents.”
A neighbor who spoke carefully noted:
“ ‘There is blatant violence happening in broad daylight,’ (deleted by me) said. “ ‘Blatant prostitution. Serious violence. Guns. Obvious drug use. Needles everywhere. Feces. I know what’s going on. I hear it from our bed.
“ ‘I’ve heard people screaming bloody murder at 4 in the morning. I thought they were getting stabbed or raped.’ ”
It’s a good read and reality, and it deals with all elements that reflect the problems that are so not new. (The image here was taken by Andy Colwell, Special to The Colorado Sun.)
Just one link: