On Saturday, October 24, at Sustainability Park, a City of Denver property near the intersection of 25th and Lawrence, a Tiny Houses project being built under the auspices of advocates from Denver Homeless Out Loud, was raided by the Denver Police Department.
Ten activists were arrested and the encampment was dismantled.
Last night, DHOL representatives were back on the scene, reinforcing their commitment to rebuild what has been referred to as Resurrection Village or Little Denver.
The Tiny Houses project wasn't kept under wraps. Indeed, it was the subject of an online campaign that raised more than $5,000 through October 21.
Here's how the project is described on the page:
Little Denver is a project being built by, with, and for people without housing in Denver, CO. We seek to create affordable, sustainable alternatives to the current housing system. Tiny homes, residential structures between 100 and 200 square feet in size, is what we propose. We seek to build these homes and place them wherever makes sense. Our vision is to create a community of micro-houses grouped together in a Tiny Home Village.
A Tiny Home Village is a congregation of tiny homes with a centralized kitchen, facilities, and common space. They provide permanent or temporary housing for people who were previously unhoused. Cities around the country are already creating tiny home villages, and more are springing up. Most of these villages were created by the residents themselves, and continue to be democratically run by those living in the village. In short, the village model is not only about housing but about mutual aid, participation, respect, and collaboration. We aim to raise our quality of life and contribute to our city in a meaningful way. We are working to create this kind of participatory community village of homes here in Denver.
We are in a housing crisis. Denver rent is at a record high and keeps getting higher. Continued cutbacks for affordable housing construction and maintenance, combined with the rising cost of housing in Denver, has made housing more scarce and competitive than ever. Today in Denver there are at least 6130¹ people who live on the streets. We have to exist somewhere, and because there are no suitable options to access affordable housing if you work a low-wage job, or are unable to work, we have to create options for ourselves and defend our right to exist in public space. A Tiny Home Village is a cheap, ecologically conscious, communal, tangible and dignified alternative to being criminalized for surviving in public spaces, or trying to hustle a spot in the overcrowded shelter system.
The following campaign-produced video offers more details.
Why did DHOL choose Sustainability Park to build Little Denver? "In explaining why they had chosen this site on which to establish the village, the group recounted how the Denver Housing Authority, which owns the property, has torn down hundreds of low income housing units, and after allowing the Urban Farming Cooperative to use the land for a few years, has agreed this year to sell the land to a private developer, who will build multifamily housing that will support gentrification in Curtis Park but be far beyond the reach of those for whom the Denver Housing Authority is supposed to exist," a release from the organization maintains.
The City of Denver was clearly not thrilled by the idea of a homeless encampment on the property.
And on Saturday night, Denver police officers moved in.
The DPD's description of the action is encapsulated in this tweet....
#ALERT at approx 7:00pm DPD responded to Denver Housing Property where parties had illegally constructed structures.— Denver Police Dept. (@DenverPolice) October 25, 2015
...and a followup:
After receiving a signed complaint 10 parties were arrested for Trespassing. The structures, were given back to the individuals or removed.— Denver Police Dept. (@DenverPolice) October 25, 2015
Denver Homeless Out Loud's description is considerably more vivid:
Saturday, Oct 24th, about seventy Denver Police Department and Denver Sheriff's Department officers, including SWAT units, under orders from Mayor Michael Hancock, descended on Sustainability Park and arrested 10 community members who, along with many others, were in the process of setting up a tiny home village to be occupied and managed by houseless people. The arrests, on charges of trespassing, were followed by the destruction and removal of several tiny homes which the group had constructed for houseless community members to live in. The group, led by Denver Homeless Out Loud and composed of houseless people and supporters, had been constructing tiny homes and trying to find a location for the village for over a year. But due to zoning and code constraints they have not been able to find a legal place to put the houses.
DHOL lists the arrestees as Terese Howard, Benjamin Donlon, Karen Caspary, Audrey Haynes, Andrew Tate Viviano, Raymond Lyall, Coby Wikselaar, Scott Hauck, Stephanie Marraro, and DJ Razee, whose Facebook page features this photo:
The arrests didn't cow the organization, which shared this post on its Facebook page yesterday: "Tonight! 8:00 PM, join us at 25th and Lawrence to protest the City of Denver shutting down a peaceful, low (lowest) cost solution to homelessness at Sustainability Park. We will protest on the street where we have all due right to do so. Let's get loud, Denver!"
Last night's protest included activists bedding down on blankets and sleeping bags.
What's next? The DHOL release concludes: "We will not give up! We will keep fighting to defend people's right to housing. For the sake of the future residents of Resurrection Village and those who were arrested, we must all stand together now! Stay tuned for updates on this story and information about how you can support our next steps in this struggle!"
Look below to see a live-streamed video of the raid, followed by a time-lapse clips documenting the village from construction to destruction.