Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Ballpark neighbors against homeless-day-center proposal take their protest to city council

It was two years ago that Denver City Council passed a ban on urban camping, promising to offer new services for the homeless population that would be pushed off the 16th Street Mall and out into nearby neighborhoods. For two years, residents of the Ballpark neighborhood watched as more and more homeless migrated to their streets -- but no new services were introduced. Tonight, Denver City Council will finally consider a financing proposal that would allow the Denver Rescue Mission to open a day-care center where the homeless could congregate...but in the meantime, businesses and residents in Ballpark have built up a major head of steam.

Part of what's making them so hot is that the city ignored their requests for a meeting for months. "We want to make it clear to the city that we are strongly and uniformly opposed to any new or expanded social services in our neighborhood, which already bears more than its fair share of homeless services," the Ballpark Neighborhood Association wrote the Mayor's Office in July. But they never got their requested sit-down with the mayor, and a meeting with his aides in March got rather rancorous.

Ten days ago, the BPNA went public with its opposition to the project. Here's the language on the petition the opponents have been circulating:

End homelessness. Don't hide it, Denver.

It's not enough to just hide homelessness in Denver. Let's end it for good.

We energetically support the goal of Denver's Road Home to end homelessness. Nine years into the 10-year plan, there's still much work for all of us to do. Yet quick fixes will not provide the best long-term solutions for our city, or our citizens. Therefore:

• We oppose the proposal to spend $8.6 million on the so-called Lawrence Street Community Center, a largely outdoor facility that would temporarily hide homeless people in a courtyard behind 10-foot walls adjacent to the Denver Rescue Mission's Lawrence Street Shelter without providing additional services to help end homelessness.

• We support directing our community's limited resources to address the root causes of homelessness through comprehensive strategies like long-term housing, treatment and job training.

Denver can't afford to treat homeless people as a problem to be swept under the rug, warehoused, or pushed to one neighborhood or another. An open, transparent, and measured public dialogue on this issue will help our community identify long-term solutions to help all Denver residents prosper, no matter what challenges they may face. Instead of settling for Band-Aids and a rushed public review process, let's join together to focus Denver's limited resources on ending homelessness for the good of the entire community.

Ballpark neighbors will rally at the Denver City & Council building at 5 p.m. tonight, then attend the meeting, where councilmembers are slated to vote on the financing proposal for the center.

From our archives: "Mayor Hancock strikes out with the Ballpark neighborhood."

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun

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