Denver City, TX

People experiencing homelessness describe broken system to council

David Heitz

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Brittany, who is homeless, tells the Denver City Council she has 18 months to live.Denver 8

By David Heitz / NewsBreak Denver

(Denver, Colo.) Several people experiencing homelessness told the City Council Monday they live in a city that seemingly works against them, even though services for them are many.

About half a dozen homeless people spoke during public comment period about the tribulations they face. Complaints ranged from shelters with restrictive curfews to a housing voucher program that doesn’t always work.

Angela Brown said she stays at the Rodeway Hotel, which she described as “beautiful.” The city funds the hotel rooms for the homeless, which serve as non-congregant shelters.

She said she had a housing voucher but “I lost it to a violent crime that left my face the way it is today.” She said the rising cost of gasoline and housing forced her into homelessness.

DNR lists doom some to arrest

She said she lost her car to “predatory towing practices.” She also spoke of shelters that place people on “DNR” lists, which stand for “Do Not Return.” People can be placed on the list if someone picks a fight with them, for example. It does not matter who picked the fight. “What happens to those people?” Brown asked.

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Angela Brown tells the Denver City Council how she became homeless.Denver 8

Once a homeless person is banned from shelters, arrest becomes far more likely as they search for places to camp. Once a homeless person has a criminal record, it becomes more difficult to find employment.

Kenneth Owens and other speakers talked about the lack of public restrooms in the city. “People come to vacation here and search for a restroom and if they had a bad day, they are going to leave it at your feet,” he told the council.

A woman named Brittany told the council she has stage 4 cancer and 18 months to live. She said security guards on 16th Street Mall are rude, saying one told her “it would be better if the homeless died off.”

Brittany said she has waited six years for housing, to no avail. “We don’t like living on the streets. It’s not something we choose to do.”

Excrement in alleys

Brittany also discussed the restroom situation. “You want to keep Denver clean when everybody comes here for vacation,” she explained, “but how are you going to keep it clean especially in the alleys where there is no restroom to use?

“We end up not having a choice but to go to the bathroom outside and some of us like me can’t stand doing that.”

Brittany said she fell in love with Denver in 2016 but added she no longer recognizes it. She said she would like to have her son come and live with her if she gets housing but added she does not want him to see how homeless people are treated in Denver.

Two people who spoke said the reason they moved to Denver was to access services. They said Denver offers some of the most generous homeless services in the nation.

Kicked out of ‘Club 48’

A man named Terry explained to the council that he had been staying at “Club 48,” a term used by people experiencing homelessness for the city’s emergency shelter. He said he missed curfew once by three minutes and could no longer stay there.

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Terry explains to the Denver City Council what happened at a city homeless shelter he calls "Club 48."Denver 8

“I feel a lot safer at a campsite than I do at a shelter,” Terry said. "Maybe the system needs to be a little forgiving for people who are trying to improve themselves.”

Unable to use housing vouchers

Shay also said she moved to Denver to find homeless housing. She figured “my abilities, pride, and determination” would help her land a housing voucher. She said she can’t find a landlord who will accept her voucher due to bad credit.

Terese Howard, who leads the homeless advocacy group Housekeys Action Network Denver, commented on the city’s recent homeless housing surge. She said many of the people housed were reunified with friends or family “regardless of whether it is a safe, lasting or desired situation for the individual.”

Members of the council do not respond to remarks made during public comment period. Council President Jamie Torres showed warmth and courtesy and thanked the speakers for their comments.

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I've been in the news business 35 years, spending much of my career in editing roles at local newspapers in Los Angeles, Detroit, and the Quad-Cities of Illinois and Iowa. Upon moving to Denver in 2018, I began experiencing severe mental illness due to several traumatic experiences. I became homeless on the street for about a year before spending time in the state mental hospital. I am living proof that people can rebound from mental illness with proper treatment, even after experiencing homelessness. I consider myself a lucky guy to live in a great place like Denver. I hope my writing reflects the passion I have for living here.

Denver, CO
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