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Denver, and with it our Union Station neighborhood, stands at the precipice of a critical inflection point regarding homelessness, crime, drug addiction and mental illness. Despite the ineffective, empty bromides and platitudes of politicians and city leaders, including ample taxpayer funding, we continue a backward slide that will hopefully not result in Denver repeating the same failures as Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco and Portland. Citizens and businesses are not yet abandoning our city, but those days may soon end. Strong leadership and the implementation of immediate remedial measures are needed now to prevent an irreversible downward spiral.
Today’s chronically unsheltered homeless population – those typically living in illegal encampments on Denver’s sidewalks or in public spaces while resisting or refusing city services – are typically in the throes of crippling addiction to fentanyl and methamphetamines, leading to abandonment of everything that matters, such as family, friends, work, personal well-being, housing and responsibilities. Surrounding and supporting these encampments and addictions is a complex ecosystem of crime that perpetuates drug dealing, prostitution, violent assault and organized retail theft. It’s a vicious cycle that must be broken. The homeless problem has been exacerbated by the illegal migrant crisis, with hundreds of new migrants flowing into Denver via bus each week from the southern border.
Denver has responded to the homeless crisis with misguided compassion and profligate spending, which increased by a factor of thirty during Mayor Hancock’s tenure, from $8 million per year to $250 million. The homeless crisis very likely consumes substantially more resources when factoring in traditional city services provided by Denver Police, Denver Fire and the Department of Public Safety. An October 2022 report by the Colorado-based, non-partisan Common Sense Institute suggests a figure of $545 million will be spent in 2023. More funding will not solve the problem; rather, it will take strong political will and a commitment to implementing solutions that have proven successful in other cities.
Mayor Johnston began his administration by declaring a “State of Emergency on Homelessness,” which is consistent with his campaign promises and was subsequently ratified by the Denver City Council. However, to date he has not yet substantively acknowledged the primary role that addiction and mental health play in unsheltered homelessness. Until those factors are recognized, Denver’s homeless crisis will continue to grow.
Any effective solution to the homeless crisis should include the following tenets:
LoDoNA advocates for subsidizing recovery and refusing to further enable addiction. There is little compassion in allowing the problem to fester through the continued abuse of dangerous drugs until overdose and death. The city must shut down all open-air drug markets while enforcing existing laws prohibiting public drug use and the criminal network it supports. Every life deserves compassion and every life in distress calls for support.
Shelter First. Treatment First. Housing Earned.
ATTEND OUR SAFE, CLEAN, AND COMPASSIONATE TOWN HALL
EACH MONTH OR AS SCHEDULED
FROM 4:30 – 5:30 PM
We will have speakers from city and state government and law enforcement to address relevant topics and provide updates on various issues affecting the LoDo community. This is a great opportunity to listen, learn and ask questions.
Updates February 2024
By David Mazzocchi, Chair
Our neighborhood has taken the following steps:
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