4

The Person Behind the "Homeless Deterrent" Signs in Baker Comes Forward

The Person Behind the "Homeless Deterrent" Signs in Baker Comes ForwardEXPAND
Courtesy of Lizzy Stephan
^
Keep Westword Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.

Last week, we reported that residents in Baker made a couple jarring discoveries in June in an alleyway behind Atomic Cowboy on Broadway. First, a resident spotted a dead squirrel surrounded by a ring of feces in an area where homeless individuals routinely sleep. Then, on June 25, residents found a dog crate with paper signs appended to the side stating, “HOMELESS DETERANT [sic] DEPOSITORY” and “PLEASE DONATE: dead squirrelles [sic], dog poop, broken glass and assorted rubbish.”

At least a couple neighbors, including Lizzy Stephan, thought the signs were meant to encourage retaliatory behavior toward the homeless. “I was horrified to see the notes on the crate, and to see the details, like looking for glass,” Stephan told us. “We live in a wonderful neighborhood, and everyone has been so friendly, so it was a shock to have this happen."

But since our original story ran, Westword was contacted by a woman who claims to have created the signs. She says their intent was misunderstood.

Carrie Mirfield explains that she made the signs as a public art installation, and that they were intended to shame a nearby resident who is suspected of being behind the dead-squirrel-and-feces display spotted earlier in June.

Mirfield lives in Capitol Hill, but she's frequently in the vicinity of the Atomic Cowboy visiting friends who live nearby. She remembers riding her bicycle past the dead squirrel and feces in the alleyway in June. That same day, she overheard a local resident named Michael bragging about setting up the squirrel and feces as a way to get back at homeless individuals who sleep in the alleyway.

“Look what I did!” Michael allegedly said to neighbors, pointing to the squirrel.

According to Mirfield, “Everyone around the block knows he did it.” And she was incensed. Mirfield thought the man’s actions were appalling and cruel. Later, when she spotted a dog crate in the alley, she decided to make ironic signs to shame Michael. She intentionally misspelled words like “deterrent” and “squirrel,” Mirfield says, to demonstrate how ignorant a person must be to harass the homeless.

What Mirfield did not anticipate was that some neighbors, like Stephan, would misinterpret her signs.

When Mirfield read Westword’s article last week, she was horrified that some people thought the signs were encouraging further harassment of the homeless.

“I apologize for my convoluted and somewhat histrionic messages. I'm an artist and writer and I am struggling with whether what I did was good agitprop or just obnoxious reactionism,” Mirfield says. “Maybe it doesn't matter, if it provoked a response that led to increasing awareness of the dehumanization and harassment of homeless individuals. The most important thing is that the labels did viscerally represent a cruel act and brought public condemnation.”

Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.

 

Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.

 

Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.