Denver Homeless Out Loud (DHOL), an organization that works “with and for people who experience homelessness,” holds its weekly meetings at Centro Humanitario on the corner of Park Avenue and California Street, where they discuss the rights of the homeless, innovations in affordable housing, policy issues and campaigning strategies to advocate for Denver’s homeless population. At Wednesday, May 11’s meeting, issues of displacement, newly enforced “street sweeps” and frustration with the University of Denver’s Gentrification and Affordable Housing Summit were at the forefront. Denver’s newly enforced policy on street sweeps have been especially damaging to many of the city’s homeless citizens.
“It’s a war on the homeless,” said Bridgett Dale, one of the organization’s homeless members, during the discussion of Denver’s recent “street sweeps.” In the past few months, the City of Denver has taken actions to clear the streets of homeless people after posting notices demanding them to “remove their belongings” and “move out.” However, with the reduction of affordable housing projects around Denver because of the city’s growing popularity and consequent demand for newer and larger apartment buildings in previously lower-income areas like Five Points, it becomes difficult to find somewhere for those without a home to move to. Denver has recently used their police and public employees to clean up the streets, tossing belongings of the homeless into trash trucks or warehouses where the owners have 30 days to claim them, according to KDVR.
The sweeps are not the only problem facing this demographic of Denver’s population. The meeting also tackled the issue of the homeless’ lack of a voice in the larger conversation taking place in the Denver area about finding a solution to the affordable housing crisis. On May 19, the University of Denver will host a summit on that exact topic, yet tickets to enter cost $50.
“For rich or middle class people, that’s a drop in the bucket,” Dale said. “For the homeless, that’s a lot of money.”
On the agenda for the DU summit are topics such as “Why Does Affordable Housing Matter,” “Gentrification, Anti-Displacement, and Preserving Affordability” and “Transitioning from Homelessness to Housing.” Yet, because of the price of the ticket, those who are most directly impacted by these issues—the homeless themselves—are unable to enter inside and join the discussion.
“You can’t have a summit on affordable housing and gentrification and the homeless and then raise the bar to enter so high that the people in those positions can’t get in,” Dale said. While this issue was not resolved during the meeting, the frustration felt by the organization and its members was evident.
The contradictions that exist in the Denver community regarding the homeless are almost too stark to ignore: blocks away from brand new luxury apartments are homeless shelters packed full with a line around the corner. On the edge of Denver’s next hottest neighborhood is a remnant of its poorer past where the homeless meet to discuss their next steps. And at a private university near beautiful Cherry Creek, upper class businesspeople will meet to discuss these challenges, while those who face those issues every day will be left on the street.