Saturday, November 18, 2006

Denver just keeps shifting the homeless about
By Tom Morris
November 12, 2006
Rocky Mountain News,2777,DRMN_23970_5139303,00.html

The recent flap about feeding the homeless in Civic Center ("Meals for homeless exit park," Oct. 13) reminds me that Denver's solution to the homeless problem since 1966 has been a game of musical chairs.

In 1966 the city approved the Skyline Urban Renewal project which claimed Skid Row for commercial development. At the time I asked one of the eager young business types roaming downtown with fliers promoting the project what the city had in mind for the inhabitants of Skid Row. "Oh," he opined, "they'll move up north somewhere."

Which they did for a while until they were dispersed throughout the city by the attempted gentrification of Curtis Park.

They ended up sleeping in city parks, hanging out on Colfax Avenue, creating favellas under the bridges over Cherry Creek and the South Platte River and generally floating around looking for an untended place to call home.

The hard-core homeless, like the rest of us, are free. They are citizens of a country dedicated to the proposition that each of us must choose our lives from the smorgasbord of our abilities, ambitions and luck.

The administration of Mayor John Hickenlooper has launched a wishful program to stamp out homelessness. I believe that we can guarantee that the hard- core homeless will continue to prefer the vagabond life to the stability of submitting to the well-intentioned programs designed by the social scientists.

It is clear that the Daniel Libeskind design for Civic Center had absolutely no plans to accommodate the homeless. Indeed, the design sought to reduce the areas where such people could congregate. The homeless will again be scattered to the winds.

The question remains, what does a city do to accommodate this choice of free people to continue their wayward ways? There are two equally unsatisfactory answers: We can set aside a Skid Row or we can continue to disapprove of their existence.

Neither solution benefits the city. The first has the unfortunate unintended consequence of attracting the homeless. The second is a failure of our Judeo- Christian principles. Perhaps the first step is to recognize the inevitability of the homeless.

Tom Morris is a resident of Denver.

Copyright 2006, Rocky Mountain News. All Rights Reserved.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11:26 AM

    It normally takes a natural disaster, new business structure, mall, park, etc. for people to recognize the homeless. Once they do after a few hours, days or sometimes weeks they are totally forgotten and shoved back into the gutter. If people would recognize that homelessness is a growing and sometimes neglected issue daily, things may change, until then all homeless will be moved just like the musical chairs game.

    Turning It Over


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