Denver, CO

Auraria Campus brought me peace during homelessness

David Heitz

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(Photo/Auraria Higher Education Center)

A stabbing occurred earlier today near the light rail on Auraria Campus. The campus is home to several local colleges and is centrally located in downtown Denver.

Auraria Campus is one of the best resources people experiencing homelessness have, thanks to St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church and friendly campus employees and students.

At times, though, the line for lunch at St. Elizabeth’s could get a bit rough. I had seen homeless people pull knives on one another there, so I wondered at first yesterday when I heard about the stabbing if it was related to the homeless feed.

The stabbing occurred near the light rail at 5th and Walnut. Little information is available, but police do say they have a suspect in custody.

For a while, the campus went on lockdown Tuesday, according to Tweets sent out by two of the colleges. Currently, there is no threat to the campus, police say.

It is not known whether the stabbing victim is somehow tied to Auraria Campus.

Auraria Campus proved to be an urban oasis

It was upsetting to hear of the Auraria Campus incident, as I used to go to the campus for peace and a meal daily while experiencing homelessness.

Someone I met at Salvation Army Crossroads homeless shelter told me one day that Auraria campus hosts the quieter, more laid-back homeless people.

That’s true most of the time, so once my friend turned me on to Auraria I went every day to the St. Elizabeth’s feed.

But when things did get violent at Auraria, usually while people were intoxicated, it could get a bit scary.

Campus library served as my office

I do not fit most stereotypes about homeless people. I have a bachelor’s degree from Augustana College, a highly selective liberal arts college in Rock Island, Ill. with ties to Sweden.

And people tell me I’m really smart.

I don’t know about that, but I do enjoy a host of nerd-like activities. I read a lot. I couldn’t wait every morning until workers put out the Wall Street Journal at the Auraria Campus Library. I enjoyed reading other periodicals there, too.

Obviously, I write a lot. And even during homelessness I wrote a lot.

Most of my writing took place at Auraria Campus, where they allowed me to use the student computers every day. Usually, you were required to show an ID to use the computers, but my identification had been stolen.

Kind Auraria cop gets me computer access

An Auraria campus cop one day suggested to the library worker that they bend the rules for me since I had some important blogs to write.

I thought that was the coolest thing ever.

I trusted Auraria police. I have a hernia. During homelessness, the hernia would pop out like a grapefruit. If I called 911 in Denver for help, they would say I was faking the hernia to get a hospital bed for the night.

So, a couple of times when the hernia pulled I hobbled to Auraria Campus and sought help from police there. And those times I was taken to a hospital and treated.

No dormitory to go home to

After a while, I made friends with some of the workers at the Auraria Campus Library. They would give me hours-long passes to use the computers, and on the weekends, I’d hole up inside there and write away.

I blogged about homelessness but also crime back in my hometown Rock Island, Ill. I ended up taking the blog down several months ago, as it is triggering for my PTSD.

I really love libraries. I can feel the energy from the learning that goes on there. I instantly feel at home amongst students with backpacks and laptops, cramming for their next exam or pounding out a term paper.

During homelessness when I went to Auraria campus for the feeds I’d spend the time before and after lunch in the library. As a homeless person I carried a backpack. At times I think I felt like I was in college, writing and researching my blog all day in the campus library.

Only when the library would close at night did the cold air hit me in the face when I walked out the door, reminding me that I wasn’t in college living in a dormitory anymore.

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I have been in the news business more than 30 years, spending much of my career at some of the best newspapers in the country. Today, I specialize in Denver local news, health reporting, social justice issues, addiction/recovery/mental health news, and topics surrounding homelessness and human trafficking.

Denver, CO
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