Reader: Pitch in to Help the City's Homeless or Move

This encampment in RiNo was swept in late November.EXPAND
This encampment in RiNo was swept in late November.
Michael Emery Hecker
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On February 24, Mayor Michael Hancock received a letter signed by more than a hundred health-care professionals and students at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. "We join the Denver homeless community and its allies in calling for an immediate end to the sweeps of outdoor encampments and the positive reallocation of resources toward safer living alternatives. Your office has defended the sweeps by arguing that they are necessary to protect the health of the general public," the letter began.

"However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends against the removal of individuals who are living in encampments, as clearing encampments can cause disbursement throughout the city and increase the potential spread of the COVID-19 virus. Additionally, it is less likely that COVID-19 will be spread in outdoor encampments, as one local investigation has shown rates of COVID-19 infection were 9 percent in surveyed indoor shelters and only 2 percent in outdoor encampments."

Published in Westword as an op-ed (and posted on the Westword Facebook page), the letter brought immediate responses from readers, if not the mayor's office, discussing homelessness in Denver. Says Mark:

Just imagine what it would be like to have to live like that. Think about it. It could be you.

Replies Daniel:

 It can't. Because I value this thing called education and hard work. And responsibility. And a desire to be a productive part of society. And I've stayed away from the drugs. Nice try.

Counters Britta: 

The majority of American households are one missed paycheck away from homelessness. It happens very easily. One bad medical event, one accident, one abuser, everything can be lost so quickly.
I was homeless while employed and working full time at two jobs. I was working 60 to 80 hours a week, barely sleeping, and crashing on couches. But friends’ generosity doesn’t last forever, and I’d eventually wear out my welcome. And then it would have been onto the street. I was lucky that I was able to afford an apartment eventually.

And yes, some people who are unhoused use drugs, or make “bad choices.” But it’s luck and privilege that keeps most of us, who make plenty of bad choices, in homes instead of in shelters and on the streets.

Asks Chris C:

I wonder how these people would feel if their business, or their daily home life would be impacted.
If you now add a pregnant spouse with a toddler in tow or even your elderly parents trying to get to their home or doctors office without help?

I bet things would change real quick!

Rersponds Chris J:

If you live in the city, pitch in and help or move. You can afford it.

They are on the streets because of mental illness and childhood trauma. Why don't the affluent residents make the problem gets dealt with? What I hear is: Please move these people away from me so I don't have to deal with it. Guess what? We ignored the problem way too long and now the Republic is crumbling before our eyes. It was a nice run.

Concludes Thomas: 

The med students are misguided in their advocacy for more, not less, pull factors for the nation's homeless to relocate here. As a civilized society we should not be endorsing or normalizing a lifestyle that poisons its practitioners as it does the environment of those unlucky enough to live in proximity. See Skid Row.

But I appreciate their passing mention of the "valid concerns about issues of human waste, garbage accumulation, drug use, needles and crime" — most polemics of this nature fail to even do that. Sup Teresa Howard.

Thanks but no thanks, "future physicians" for making your stance clear. You see, once you've paid off that student loan debt, you'll move on and enjoy separation from the detritus of addiction only doctor-money can buy: think Castle Pines, the hills of Boulder.

Meanwhile, the rest of us here in the actual city will be left eating cake and hoping to hell the next encampment doesn't pop up where we live.

Thank you, Mayor Hancock, for insisting we can do better by the vulnerable while the din of these disconnected, hyperliberal, Ivory Tower elites only seems to amplify.

What do you think of how Mayor Michael Hancock's administration has handled the city's response to homelessness? What would you like to see happen? Post a comment or share your thoughts at editorial@westword.com.

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