A little paint here, a homeless shelter there…

We (Denver) welcome the Democratic National Convention to our illustrious state today and our preparations for the arrival of the 17000 odd media personnel and tens of thousands of attendees have been intense.

We distributed hundreds of thousands of daisy seeds to create a “unifying flower theme.” Sadly, few of the daisies came up, so there is really no unifying theme.

We passed “protest safety” ordinances prohibiting the carrying of bicycle locks and caribiners, in addition to various bodily fluids. (There was a lively city council debate discussing the necessity of prohibiting the carrying of bottles of urine and “feces bombs”.)

We painted the flower pots on the 16th street mall several shades of vibrant green, power washed the streets with our limited water supply, and cleaned up the streets.

Yes, we swept all the homeless into area shelters, and then into area emergency shelters, so we could limit the number of homeless on the streets during the convention. It would seem that tourists and conventioneers often complain about the homeless panhandlers in our fair city, so the city has decided to clear them away (for this convention at least.)

Colorado, with an average of 300 days of sun per year, is a popular place for the homeless, and a fairly easy place to survive outside (until winter, that is.). Denver and other area cities have passed increasingly restrictive panhandling laws, but the courts have ruled that panhandlers have the right to ask passersby for money, so the restrictions don’t get rid of the “problem.”

There have been a lot of criticisms about the various efforts being made to deal with Denver’s homeless, and many rumors about free movie and zoo passes. However, many of the programs are simply volunteer efforts to help, not city funded “sprucing up” schemes, and many of these volunteer efforts occurred prior to the convention, and will continue to occur after it.

The Co-Owner of Sly’s Salon commented on a recent Indecision 2008 article slamming a volunteer “haircuts for the homeless” effort: The fact is that the City of Denver is not giving out movie tickets, bus passes, museum tickets or zoo passes to Denver’s homeless residents. The “Homeless not Hopeless Cut-A-Thon” was conceived and created by Sly’s Salon and was in no way sponsored by the City of Denver. Tickets were distributed by Sly’s Salon and not from the City of Denver or Denver Human Services. All costs involved with having the Cut-A-Thon on the 18th were incurred entirely by Sly’s Salon and the stylists that agreed to donated their time and services for the event.

A Denver’s Road Home Employee clarified the clean up efforts as well:

I work for Denver’s Road Home and I would like to provide some clarification. Denver’s Road Home is a comprehensive, long-term plan designed to put people into housing while addressing the underlying causes of homelessness. In the first three years since implementation, Denver’s Road Home has reduced chronic homelessness by 36%.

The City and County of Denver is not giving out free haircuts. The owners of a private business, Sly’s Salon, distributed coupons and gave out free haircuts. We applaud this and other community efforts to help the homeless.

Denver’s Road Home is not aware of any zoo passes, museum tickets or other cultural activities being distributed to the homeless during the Democratic National Convention. A clarification to this point was issued by the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.

We are not hiding the homeless; we are helping the homeless find housing. Ensuring the homeless have short and long-term housing has always been the priority of Denver’s Road Home. This is not new for the DNC. Service delivery will be “business as usual” with a few extras during the convention to make sure everyone wanting shelter has a place to go.

There is a hint of scandal surrounding the city’s decision to move the homeless off the streets and into housing during the convention, and I certainly think there is a desire to show a pretty Denver face to the national media. However, these homeless individuals won’t be able to escape the convention madness if the city doesn’t provide them with a place to go. I wouldn’t want to have the convention in my living room, I doubt they do either.

As for the actual treatment of the homeless during the convention, we will have to watch carefully to see what happens. I am hoping our city’s officials don’t use this event as an excuse to sweep this huge issue under the carpet.

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2 thoughts on “A little paint here, a homeless shelter there…”

  1. I watched a documentary on homelessness last night at Harkin Theater in Northfield Stapleton. It was called Skid Row, ( http://www.skidrowthemovie.com/
    )and is about Pras from the Fugees going undercover in Skid Row for 9 days. I’ll review it later, I haven’t really had a chance to digest it. It was pretty intense.

    The director of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, the Director of Midnight Mission, and Pras from the Fugees were all there for a Q&A session afterward.

    It seems Denver has some pretty good programs they’re implementing for the homeless over the past few years, including Housing First.

    They didn’t mention anything about what was being done during the convention.

  2. Great Post! I always appreciate information that clarifies what the media is saying. I often only read the first few lines of an article which can lead to misconceptions about what the article is saying. I had read an article this weekend about the haircuts (and actually read the whole article) and it was not until the last section that it made it clear that the haircuts were provided by a private organization. I felt it was very misleading – and I could have been misled if I had not read the whole artice. Good Job Misty!

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