Letters to the Editor

From the week of April 22, 2004

A Tents Situation

Homeless is where the heart is: Amy Haimerl's "Pitching Tents," in the April 15 issue, was a thought-provoking, well-written article by a woman who chose not to make it an article about the politics of Denver's homeless population, but rather chose to put a human face on the problem. We will all be dealing with this very issue in the near future, and Haimerl's ability to give clear facts and still keep the human element was very comforting to me. I could see that these people are really trying to better themselves and are not necessarily looking for this as a permanent housing solution. Rather, they are using it as a transitional place to go.

Please give Amy Haimerl a pat on the back for being brave enough to go and seek this story out, and tell her "Well done!"

Cathy Campbell
via the Internet

Making camp: Becoming homeless is not a glamorous notion to be minimized by relating it to summer camp. Oregon is an anomaly because the society and culture there value people.

In Colorado, people are a disposable commodity, and homeless people are treated as fodder. The citizenry in Colorado needs to wake up and see that for the most part, we are all one paycheck away from homelessness.

There are men, women and children living in cars, shelters, under bridges, in alleyways, motels, etc., all around us -- and yet Denver continues to lollygag with a long-term solution.

Instead of building a convention-center expansion or the Wellington Webb memorial building, we should have been addressing building more low-income, subsidized housing.

I say that until the city of Denver wakes up, the Tent City should be set up and allowed to operate.

Brett Haselton
Thornton

Breaking camp: I find it deeply touching that our mayor, looking down from the heights of his LoDo loft, has decided to eliminate the homeless problem in Denver. I sincerely doubt, however, that he'll be willing to buy off on the idea of putting up a tent city anytime in the future. Like the rest of us, politicians prefer the homeless to be scattered about -- if for no other reason than when they're out of sight, they're out of mind, and while it's good to provide lip service about how much we care about the less fortunate, we really don't want to be constantly reminded that they're around. While Hickenlooper likes to claim he's a Democrat, and there might be a short-term publicity gain in having a modern-day Hooverville in George Bush's compassionate conservative America, the problem is that after the election is over, the poor, as St. Matthew wrote, will still be with us.

The conundrum that the mayor and Denver City Council have regarding this issue is that there just isn't enough money in the city's coffers to really deal with the problem. With the property taxes of working stiffs having gone up 27 percent in the past year, and the mayor and city council floating the idea of increasing property taxes again to build a new jail, it's doubtful the working-class wage slaves who are one or two paychecks away from homelessness themselves are going to be in a giving mood, considering the fact we already spend $379 million dollars a year on social service subsidies.

So where's the money going to come from? First and foremost, the Hotel and Restaurant Association's mayor and the Wal-Mart-loving city council have to come to grips with the fact that the majority of taxes that we spend on the poor presently is spent on the working poor. If we raise the minimum wage in Denver, those social costs will be decreased. When the lower class are paid a decent wage, they can afford affordable housing on their own. If we continue to ignore this fact, we will continue to be burdened with increased property taxes to subsidize the downtown blind-trust restaurant-bar owners who pay their employees a shitty wage.

Hickenlooper might consider doing this after an intervention of consciousness-raising on Westword's part if you turned him on to a copy of Neal Cassady's The First Third. Aside from being one of the best pieces of literature to come out of the Beat movement, the book is set in Denver and tells about the first third of the author's life living down on skid row with his dad. While having Hickenlooper read it might not change his perspective on the homeless, it could only help the guy understand what real literature is, and in a moment of self-realization, he may take his personal copy of Peace Like a River and give it to some shelter.I hear they're always looking for donations of extra ass-wipe they can use.

Jeremiah M. Attridge
Denver

The light stuff: I thought "Pitching Tents" was a wonderfully written article about a part of our society that is often overlooked or associated with mental illness. Amy Haimerl was able to go beyond the stereotypes and portray these homeless communities in a clear, honest light that was refreshing and insightful.

Jami Howell
Greeley


Extra-Credit Coarse

Vidiot: Michael Roberts's "Kid Stuff," in the April 15 issue, reinforced my initial impression that Boulder High School teacher Jim Kavanagh is not so much a hero of free speech as a self-absorbed boob.

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