American Culture

Denver is missing something – the homeless

I was walking up the 16th Street Mall this morning when I got stopped by a man offering me a small newspaper called the Denver Voice. It’s a paper written in large part by the homeless, about the homeless, and sold on the streets of Denver by the homeless. For a suggested donation of $1.00, I got a metaphorical smack upside the head, and an article inside the the Voice brought made it smart even more. I hadn’t even noticed, and my lack of noticing was something unusual. Downtown Denver is missing something.

Where are the homeless?

Before the DNC, there were rumors flying around that the homeless would be rounded up and carted away to some other part of the city, or given money for a meal and a bus ticket out of Denver entirely, or even arrested and held for a week on trumped-up charges that would be conveniently dropped Friday or Saturday after the election. But no-one knew for sure. According to the Voice article “Denver Won’t Hide Homeless for the DNC”, New York city police issued “quality of life” tickets in advance of the 2004 convention, and Denver’s homeless were concerned that the same thing would happen here. The article quoted Denver’s Road Home project manager Jamie Van Leeuwen as saying that the DNC would be largely business as usual for homeless shelters, with a few “extending hours or involving the homeless in politics related activities.” And Commander Deborah Dilley, the Denver Police Department’s downtown district commander said in the article that “the homeless won’t be unfairly targeted by any law enforcement during the DNC.”

So where are they?

Most of Denver’s homeless live in the public spaces of downtown and LoDo, panhandle along the 16th Street Mall and the Cherry Creek Path, and sleep in the large parks and public space that have been taken over or blocked off by the DNC, various security forces, and protesters. But they’re all gone. I’ve been getting into downtown between 7 and 8 AM since Monday, walking from one end of downtown to the other, and the only possible homeless people I’ve seen all week were on Sunday up on Capitol Hill, well outside the main areas where the homeless would congregate. And you’d think that, with such a huge influx of people and wealth, panhandlers would be all over the place trying to get as much money from the delegates, press, staff, and politicians as they possibly could. But they aren’t there. They’re not just invisible, they’re actually gone.

I’ve heard rumors that the homeless were given movie tickets during the day to keep them off the streets. But fellow Scrogue Edmundo Rocha, who used as a homeless specialist for the Harris County Community Development Department says that most cities do exactly what DPD Commander Dilley and Van Leeuwen said they weren’t going to do – they round up the homeless and either detain them at an undisclosed detention center, or they ship them off to economically depressed suburbs and away from the throngs of visitors like all of those attending the DNC.

I’ve asked my fellow Scrogues if they’ve seen any homeless, and the only one of us who has seen more than one or two is Edmundo.

It’s terrible thing to be picked up and hauled away, even temporarily, for the “crime” of not being able to afford a home. But they’re not here in downtown Denver, so they have to have gone somewhere. If you know where they’ve gone, if you’ve talked to some of the sudden influx of homeless in your area and they’re from Denver, let us know. We’d like to know who to point a finger at and accuse of caring more for public appearances during the DNC than for the homeless of Denver.

3 replies »

  1. Isn’t this ironic? Finally, we have a presidential noiminee who actully relates and empatizes with people in poverty. People have to live on the street and in shelters because of two things; poverty and a lack of affordable housing. When are we all going to “get it?” If we aren’t affluent (middle class to McCain) we are in jeapordy. Any of us who are working for a living, renting or paying a mortagage, and trying to drive a vehicle on a daily basis, tend to our familes and afford to eat are less than a missed pay period away from the street. People, this thing about the homeless being missing from Denver….that may or may not be dirty tricks by the city government. But I can tell you with complete honesty and candor that some of those people who weren’t on view during the convention were working. Some of them were attending class. Some of them were in meetings from recovery group to yoga lessons. Some of them were so ill they couldn’t come outside. Some were dying. Some were giving birth, and some were having a romantic date. Some were tending to their children, and some were remembering their children with sadness and longing. Here’s the point. This “homeless” thing isn’t about the “homeless.” It’s about you and it’s about me!

  2. I am resident of Denver. I live on the edge of Downtown.

    I was a Counter~Delegate at the Counter~Convention or Festival of Democracy and was in the mix 5 days.

    Now given the number of the several Colorado cities, state, and of the federal alphabet agencies badge wearing finest in full view at all times and who were mostly everywhere don’t you think that just because a person is homeless that they don’t know when the deck is stacked against them.?

    The smart ones went to the homeless rag. Took their training and were awarded vendor lanyards. Legal panhandling. The others probably squirreled up whatever and stayed away wherever. The was no draconian law of privilege enacted on the unfortunate.

    I am proud to be a resident of Denver, contrary to popular belief the cows are out on the prairie and the kwel dude and dudettes live here.

    We are progressive!

    Hey first city in the union to legalize marijuana!

    Now stick some of that in your pocket and give it to the next panhandler!

    Wayward Bill Amerika

  3. I work with Denver’s Road Home and I would like to provide some clarification.

    Denver’s Road Home, the community’s ten year plan to end homelessness, is issuing this statement to clarify what DRH is and correct misinformation circulating concerning the Democratic National Convention and the homeless.

    • The City and County of Denver is not giving out free haircuts. The owners of a private business, Sly’s Salon, distributed coupons and gave out free haircuts. We applaud this and other community efforts to help the homeless.

    • Bus tokens are available, as they are every day of the year, for the homeless to access the services that they need to live life off of the streets.

    • Denver’s Road Home is not aware of any zoo passes, museum tickets or other cultural activities being distributed to the homeless during the Democratic National Convention. A clarification to this point was issued by the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.

    • We are not hiding the homeless; we are helping the homeless find housing. Ensuring the homeless have short and long-term housing has always been the priority of Denver’s Road Home. This is not new for the DNC. Service delivery will be “business as usual” with a few extras during the convention to make sure everyone wanting shelter has a place to go.

    • Denver’s Road Home has a comprehensive, long-term plan designed to put people into housing while addressing the underlying causes of homelessness. In the first three years since implementation, Denver’s Road Home has reduced chronic homelessness by 36%.

    • Denver’s Road Home is working to ensure that people are safe and treated well during the DNC. We’re treating the homeless as we have been for almost three years. We are, and have always been, committed to ensuring everyone has a safe place to be. During the DNC, DRH will expand outreach services to get the homeless connected with services and shelter. DRH is also working with providers to expand facility hours, both day and evening, and to provide special programs for homeless youth. DRH is also working closely with the Denver Police to ensure the safety and well being of people on the streets.

    • We see the DNC as an opportunity to engage the homeless in the political process. DRH is working with several providers to register the homeless to vote and to provide convention viewing opportunities for the homeless.

    • The DNC is a great opportunity to educate our community and the nation about the plight of the homeless. Denver’s Road Home will be working to raise awareness about homelessness among convention delegates and the general public, just as we have with other large-scale events that have come to Denver.

    • Denver’s Road Home was here before DNC and will be here long after the convention is gone. Denver’s Road Home has been in place for three years, long before Denver was chosen to host the DNC. It is a comprehensive, long-term plan designed to get people into housing and access to services while addressing the underlying causes of homelessness. Because it is a ten year plan, it will be in place for many years to come.