Denver, CO

Opinion: Why I still live in homeless housing

David Heitz
David Heitz lives at Fusion Studios, 3737 Quebec.Photo byDavid Heitz

The 10,000 people who follow me on NewsBreak know by now that I experienced homelessness in 2019 and that I live in Colorado Coalition for the Homeless housing.

Some may wonder why I still live here after almost three years. I ask myself that question a lot.

First, I don’t make enough money to pay rent on even a studio apartment in Denver. There have been months when my income has spiked into that territory, but instead of moving into a new place I continued to pay 30 percent of my income here. My portion did not ever amount to my full rent, which is more than $1,000.

Some might wonder why I didn’t get out of here the first chance I could. That’s a good question. The short answer is I feared if I moved out of permanent supportive housing, I would become homeless again. Freelance writing doesn’t always pay the bills. And you never know how long a gig might last.

Mental illness hurts my career

I became homeless upon experiencing severe mental illness. As I began to act psychotically, all my writing gigs dried up. I was obsessed with what many would call conspiracies.

I moved out of my hometown after my house was shot up. I had been receiving harassing emails and telephone calls about my writing. I moved to Denver on a whim. Honestly, I moved here for the marijuana, just like many who despise the homeless allege. A medical marijuana patient, I knew weed would be cheap in Colorado. And it is.

Passed up ‘golden ticket’

I even attained what’s known as a “golden ticket’ among the formerly unhoused. I received a “scattered site voucher,” which means I could rent an apartment up to $1,200 per month, I believe it was, and pay just 30 percent of my income. That applied to anywhere, not just for Coalition or other income-based properties.
David Heitz's room at Fusion Studios is very modest.Photo byDavid Heitz

I ended up giving up the voucher. I convinced myself that nobody would rent to me because I have a bankruptcy and an eviction on my record. Coalition staff assured me there would be ways around that, but I could not handle the thought of looking at apartments and being turned down.

I love being babied

In truth, I did not want to home out of homeless housing because there are some things I like about living here. I tend to stick myself and have not really made any friends in Denver. The people I do know are people from the street, and some of them also ended up living here.

While I may criticize some of the people who live here for being loud, not keeping a clean apartment and other things, I have made some friends in this building. And I appreciate the staff, which I remain in close contact with.

Actually, if you want to know the truth, living here is a bit like being babied.

Although the accommodations are extremely modest, how many places have you lived where the doctor always comes to you? Or where a therapist is on hand to talk most anytime you need it? Or if you need a ride to King Sooper’s for your rent money order when it is snowing?

My only Christmas card

I honestly believe the staff here – security, building management, maintenance, the clinicians – all truly care for the health and welfare of the residents. I received one Christmas present and one card this year. It came from the staff here at Fusion. Even though everyone here got something, it felt good to be remembered my landlord and health care provider, Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, during the holiday season. Otherwise, I would have received no gifts and heard “Happy Holidays” from no one.
I received one holiday card this year. It was from the people who manage my building.Photo byDavid Heitz

I worry that if I were to move from homeless housing, a new place could be even worse. I also like the fact that my building has armed security. And I love that Martin Luther King Jr. Park is right down the street.

But most of all I worry I would retreat even further into my shell if I moved. I seldom go anywhere. I hate the telephone. But I don’t mind working long hours every day writing about local news, even if it isn’t making me rich.

Writing comes easy here

And that’s another reason I didn’t want to move from here when I had the chance. My writing gig with NewsBreak is one of the best I’ve ever had. I love it and I feel like I’m making a difference. Never have I worked so hard at something. And it all has happened here, in this old hotel converted into studio apartments.

I used to live a highly active life. Working in journalism in Los Angeles I often attended posh events. I have lived in a penthouse. I have danced until dawn more nights than I can remember. I have loved and been loved.

Now, I sort of feel like I’m in a holding pattern. I need to meet people I have things in common with. But it’s hard when you don’t get out much and literally fear going out.

Fear of failing holds me back

I suffered much physical abuse while homeless. It was terrifying. I am terrified of becoming homeless again.

But that belief deep inside me, that standing on my own two feet never will happen again, isn’t healthy. I am holding myself back from a more fulfilling life.

One of the great things about writing local news is that it keeps me in the present. So, I don’t have much time to worry about anything.

Maybe it’s OK to be in a holding pattern. Colorado Coalition for the Homeless has helped me remain stable after years of severe psychosis. It’s no wonder I don’t want to leave.

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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. You can email me news releases and story ideas at

Denver, CO

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