Denver, CO

Has ‘party of wealth’ turned its back on the homeless?

David Heitz

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Anastase Maragos

Why are Denver Democrats letting homeless people die on their streets? Isn’t the Democratic party supposed to be a home for the downtrodden and oppressed?

It's a question some activists have begun to ask. Denver is largely Democratic. Yet the electorate overwhelmingly approved a law to sweep homeless people off the streets. The sweeps displace people experiencing homelessness who are unable to stay in a city shelter.

The sweeps are proudly enforced by Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, a Democrat who has visited the Democrat-run White House. It’s Hancock who has vowed to enforce the sweeps. And he has, even stepping up enforcement in recent months.

Conditions at the encampments are vile. The city has been asked to provide trash pickup and restroom facilities for the outposts and has so far declined.

Democratic party represents great wealth

Cities with some of the largest homelessness problems in the nation are run by Democrats. So why aren’t Democrats working to provide people experiencing homelessness with permanent housing?

According to one opinion maker, the Democrats have become the party of the rich. The concerns of the little guy, especially people living on the street, are far from their consciousness, many argue.

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“The two parties are switching class constituents. Some 65 percent of the Americans making more than $500,000 a year are Democrats, and 74 percent of those who earn less than $100,000 a year are Republicans, according to IRS statistics,” reported the San Jose Mercury News. “Gone are the days of working people automatically voting Democratic, or Republicans being caricatured as a party of stockbrokers on golf courses.

“By 2018, Democratic representatives were in control all 20 of the wealthiest congressional districts. In the recent presidential primaries and general election, 17 of the 20 wealthiest ZIP codes gave more money to Democratic candidates than to Republicans.”

Democratic stars include bi-coastal elites

You can find the elite Democrats in New York, California and other coastal cities and states. Denver has them. High-tech, retail, sports and entertainment giants have created new wealth that largely leans left.

Hanson said you won’t find many Democrats admitting their party has the biggest purse. “The Democratic Party does not wish to admit it has become the party of wealth,” he wrote. “All too often its stale revolutionary speechifying sounds more like penance arising from guilt than genuine advocacy for middle-class citizens of all races.”

Many advocates for people experiencing homelessness say enough money is spent on the vast array of services provided to them to permanently house them. Housing the homeless is the only way to solve the problem.

Less homelessness in GOP cities

Some cities have made progress on ending homelessness, and they have done so by providing permanent supportive housing. Those cities tend to be categorized as Republican places.

An article in The Washington Post admits its true left-leaning cities have bigger homelessness problems. “Data from the Department of Housing and Urban Development show that homelessness is, in fact, more prevalent in states that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. What’s more, states that voted for Trump — and, therefore, are often led by Republicans — have seen larger drops in their homeless populations.”

The reporter defends his position with plenty of data. “Half of America’s homeless live in major cities, four-fifths of them in blue states. The data above suggest that Trump’s tweets aren’t simply the president picking on cities as centers of homelessness and incidentally dinging Democrats. Instead, there indeed are real differences in how the homeless population has changed in red and blue states.”

Both parties enact anti-homeless policies

Indeed, in Denver both parties have shown disdain for homelessness. The Denver County Republican chair petitioned to get a measure on the ballot requiring the city sweep encampments within three days of a complaint.

Meantime, money supporting the initiative is flooding in from a group whose owner has ties to powerful Democratic Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, according to the Denver Voice. The Denver Voice reports on issues of importance to people experiencing homelessness.

The controversy centers around a woman named Katie Kennedy, owner of a non-profit group called Defend Colorado. The group has raised money to support or oppose ballot measures in the past.

Initiative backer has ties to Mayor Hancock

“Campaign finance records show three of Kennedy’s clients have ties to Mayor Hancock—the Apartment Association of Metro Denver, the Metro Housing Coalition, and Colorado Concern, a pro-business advocacy group,” the Voice reported. “Once Hancock decided to run for Mayor, the two organizations increased their financial support. In 2011, they donated a combined total of $10,000 in support of Hancock’s mayoral campaign. Since then, the three groups combined have donated $13,000 to Hancock’s campaigns.”

Defend Colorado has spent well into the six digits on the “We Can Do Better” initiative, intended to step up homeless sweeps. “Over the campaign’s first two months, Defend Colorado has financially supported it to the tune of $113,750, according to campaign finance documents from the Clerk & Recorder’s Office,” according to the Voice.

Homeless and formerly homeless people express frustration each week at the Democrat majority Denver City Council meetings. They say safe permanent housing, not chasing people in circles, is the way to end homelessness.

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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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