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The meeting tonight at the Scheitler Recreation Center about a possible homeless shelter near Inspiration Point, Denver

September 16, 2015
Newly elected Councilman from Denver's District One, Rafael Espinoza, addressing the meeting.

Newly elected Councilman from Denver’s District One, Rafael Espinoza, addressing the meeting.

(Note: this is a brief report on a meeting held tonight in Northwest Denver concerning the proposed renovation of a building in the “Inspiration Point” neighborhood, not far from where we live. We don’t live right in the neighborhood concerned, but within a mile of it….which doesn’t exactly make us foreigners. Overall there was great opposition to the proposed shelter and it was said with much emotion. Despite what I write below, criticisms of the process, I still support the proposal and hope that it can be salvaged.This is a copy of an email sent to a community list called “Next Door Skinner” to which I belong. rjp)

Went to the meeting… quite lively…

I attended, and made a couple of remarks which did not sit well with most people in the room, but that is not important. I said what I thought needed saying.

More importantly: A couple of things are clear to me thinking about what transpired that I want to share, and hopefully for people to consider. It (“it” = homelessness) affects all of us, all of us in District One and in the City…and discussions like this will be taking place in other neighborhoods too ( and have already).

1. It came through loud and clear, repeatedly actually, that from the outset the city and the Denver Foundation (who owns the property for the proposed shelter), did not involve the community in the immediate area – or for that matter, even the elected officials in District One and that they, the community (and the elected officials) felt “railroaded.” And in a way they were, which only made things worse. That point was best articulated by both Rep Dan Pabon and City Councilman Rafael Espinoza as well. It appears to have been true and the community in the neighborhood of the proposed homeless shelter resented it. I don’t know that this was “purposeful” on the part of the city or the Denver Foundation, but, regardless, it created a bad environment which was certainly manifested in the meeting, which, if I am not mistaken, was attended by several hundred people, most it seems, from the immediate vicinity.

It came through loud and clear, repeatedly actually, that from the outset, the city and the Denver Foundation (who owns the property for the proposed shelter) did not involve the community in the immediate area  – or for that matter, even the elected officials in District One and that they, the community (and the elected officials) felt “railroaded.” And in a way they were, which only made things worse.

2. That in the past, there have been major projects which were shoved down the throat of the Inspiration Point neighborhood without their input, especially, interestingly enough, the creation of I-70, which might go back a half century, but these folks remember. They saw the issue of the proposed homeless shelter in this manner, and they were right. The fact that District One (with its long history of middle and working class families) has been historically neglected by wealthier neighborhoods, a fact cited by several people, is indeed true. Ours is not the only district that has been neglected…but we are – or have been – one of them.

3. That said, I can’t say that had much sympathy for the actual arguments made against the shelter …the level of blind hostility towards homeless people was pretty intense, subjective and self-serving, – in some cases down right ugly, toxic, as if homeless folk are no more than social lepers. So even had the city (meaning the Mayor’s office) and the Denver Foundation gone about it all in a more inclusive, democratic way, it’s hard to tell what the result would have been. Still, there was so much FEAR in the room,…and so little…just plain sympathy for people down and out.

4. But then it’s not over…I wish that several homeless people had been in attendance to present their case, but none were present (to my knowledge)…Maybe some of the fears would have been addressed? But none of the people effected were there. Really doesn’t work well to be “represented by others”..even well intentioned people.

I wish that several homeless people had been in attendance to present their case, but none were present (to my knowledge)…Maybe some of the fears would have been addressed? But none of the people effected were there. Really doesn’t work well to be “represented by others”..even well intentioned people.

5. By the way, parks do NOT belong to the neighborhood in which they are found, they belong to ALL the citizens of this city, including the homeless, whether it’s kids who want to play volleyball at Wash Park (to the consternation of nearby homeowners it appears)…or homeless people enjoying the view at Inspiration Point. There were battles fought in this city to give “unwelcomed people” the right to use public facilities…, then it was about race …now it is about just being down and out, homeless.

Oh yes…just know, I have no intention of going tit-for-tat with everyone on the list, other than to say, that I hope that the project can be salvaged – because it is a good one, a decent one, even if the city and the Denver Foundation went about it in the wrong way. We live in a city – and as such, we have connections to the broader community that go beyond our immediate families, our kids – vital as they are – , to each other…rich, middle class and poor. One way or another, there is no way of escaping the social problems which plague ours – a very livable city actually – and others.So we might as well deal with them. We all have something to offer one another, whether we know it or not.

Cheers, …from a retired teacher.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Ed Augden permalink
    September 16, 2015 10:14 pm

    I agree with you, Rob. Although the city has neglected to include all voices, the project is still valid. Homeless people are real people, not just statistics.

    • September 16, 2015 10:36 pm

      The more I think of it Ed,…there were a few – don’t know what else to call them – assholes present trying to flex their muscles with their loud angry voices, but I want to insist on the whole, that most of the people in the room are good people..they had real concerns that needed addressing, fears. Hopefully these concerns can be and will be addressed..What were some of the fears that were expressed?

      1. that the homeless would include sexual predators. There was fear for the children.
      2. there was fear that the homeless would bring drugs and prostitution to the neighborhood
      3. there was fear that some of them would be “let out” at night, as if a homeless shelter should be a prison
      4. there was a general characterization of homeless people has shiftless, unreliable, “dangerous” –
      5. the biggest thing that came through to me is that the homeless should have NO rights….at least not in THEIR neighborhood.

      None of this is unusual – the typical homelessphobia I guess it can be called. One sees it more and more and not just in Denver. All of this suggests that many of the people in the room have little to no contact with homeless people, and so they fear them and make up exaggerated tales about them, the kinds that come from social distance.

      There were also comments about people who had “escaped the inner city” and didn’t think they “deserved” the problems, the contact with the homeless, as if Inspiration Point is not an integral part of Denver.

      I believe that most of these fears can and should be addressed Frankly, despite what was expressed in the meeting, I believe that Inspiration Point is EXACTLY the kind of neighborhood where the people involved, if they got involved, could help, could provide a support system for homeless people and they, the currently existing community would be likewise enriched. Of course, tonight we are far from that situation and I don’t know if it can be salvaged..but I think it possible. Further, sooner or later, every neighborhood in the city will be “Inspiration Point” – Homelessness is on the rise, not on the decline in Denver. As you know, affordable housing is becoming scarce. Of course the city has been more than negligent in dealing with this – they have a program, yes, but it has been more fluff than substance…but it will take more than the government, it will take the people of Denver coming to realize that we all have to help dealing with this issue – which is more than local in scope.

  2. Francis S. Cheever permalink
    September 17, 2015 6:38 am

    nice, Robbie. no longer teaching but still active. sarge

  3. Jim Thornton permalink
    September 17, 2015 9:57 am

    You know what Rob, you don’t live right in the selected area and maybe these “assholes” do so maybe you can shelve your name calling.
    I live right across the street from Berkeley Park but was not at the meeting. Neither me nor my neighbors right by me want this shelter. There are at least 3 bars within blocks from this proposed shelter. I personally do not want to see the multitudes more panhandlers that this shelter will bring to our street corners begging for my hard earned money so that they can drink at these bars on my dime. I understand that people need help but I don’t feel the need to help their vices! Why do I constantly see so called homeless people in need standing on corners partaking in another vice that they supposedly can’t afford, smoking! For every person that really is in need, there are dozens who are just plain lazy and want handouts. I can’t determine which is which so maybe you ought to focus on stopping the scammers of the system from hurting those needing the system. A mile away is far enough away to not fully feel the effects of being so close to the shelter so please get off your soapbox about it being in your neighborhood.
    Not everybody appreciates being approached by, waved at, or asked for money by total strangers and it is well within their rights to not want to have to deal with this on a daily basis, just as much as it is within your rights to want to help. Neither are wrong, just different. What you and the City are wanting to do is force it on those people that don’t want it and that is what is wrong.
    The City also posted that the shelter would only be for bussing in the homeless on cold nights for a place to sleep and then bus them back in the morning, but they followed that up with these words, “for now”. What does that mean? Everybody in the neighborhood read that statement to mean it was going to become a permanent situation with permanent homeless residents in the neighborhood bringing permanent issues from those that are there scamming the system and the hard working folk living in the neighborhood.
    I have so much more to relay that I can’t type properly so these are just a few thrown together briefly. Respect all opinions respectfully even if they are not agreeable.

    Thanks

    • September 17, 2015 12:08 pm

      Jim – I am only referring to the several guys – two of them – who were trying to disrupt. For the others. I tried to listen carefully…As for your concerns, I take them seriously…they are not unreasonable…although a couple of things
      1. there is no evidence that people spending the night at the proposed shelter will be panhandlers…in the neighborhood during the day…and regardless, panhandlers are so pervasive now, that shelter or know, I suspect we’ll see them everywhere. I notice there are many on the corner of 50th and Sheridan now pretty much all the time
      2. I don’t know – frankly – whether it is a good idea for the shelter to be in your neighborhood or not…and as I noted above, the way that you had so little input bothered me. It wasn’t right…What also bothers me is the way the homeless are considered to be like social lepers. In fact lepers were probably treated with more sympathy. They seem to a political football – no neighborhood wants them, not yours, mine or hardly any other in Denver…and yet we’ll all have to learn how to live with them – because if anything, homelessness will get worse. This time the problem fell in your lap, granted. Where will it happen next…Wouldn’t it be better to together, think this thing through and come up with some solution that is both reasonable and humane? Anyhow, I appreciate your response.

    • Sarge Cheever permalink
      September 18, 2015 4:13 am

      Fair and balanced, just like Fox News . . . (a silly comment, when analyzed)

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