In June, a Baker resident noticed something odd: a dead squirrel surrounded by a ring of feces placed in the alleyway behind Atomic Cowboy, right where people experiencing homelessness occasionally sleep. Then, a week later, in its place was a crate with paper signs stating “HOMELESS DETERANT [sic] DEPOSITORY” and “PLEASE DONATE: dead squirrels, dog poop, broken glass and assorted rubbish.”
While neighbors were horrified that someone had potentially tried to shoo the homeless out of the neighborhood using offensive means, it turned out the crate and signs weren't what they seemed (we followed up in a second story, accessible below).
Still, readers tackled homelessness in Denver in comments on both stories.
Anyone of us may end up homeless in this town, especially since housing prices are sky high. We need to treat the homeless with respect and dignity, not this.
If anyone is willing to invest in the time accruing things for homeless deterrent, then why not use that time to help the homeless person find a job to be self-sufficient? Heck, why not hire him/her for a day for whatever your needs are?
I'm not saying that should be done, but I understand their frustration. Having needles, feces, pee and garbage everywhere is unacceptable.
Everyone in Baker loves to talk about how nice that neighborhood is now and not “ghetto” like it used to be. These people sound pretty fucking low class to me. Gentrification. Great, it’s nice now that there are overpriced mediocre restaurants and shops of shit made in Taiwan? Cool city. Bye, Denver.
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After Westword ran the first story about the crate and signs, we were 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.
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“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 would misinterpret her signs.
Are you frustrated with homelessness in Denver? Let us know in a comment or email firstname.lastname@example.org.