Denver, CO

Patience wearing thin between migrants, traditionally homeless in Denver

David Heitz

When a bus from Texas dropped off some migrants Monday morning in front of the Colorado Capitol, Evan Dreyer from the mayor’s office blasted the atrocity. “These are folks who have come from the Texas border after long journeys, and they are not prepared for cold weather,” Dreyer told the Denver Post. “And to drop them off like that, just randomly, in the cold — in the freezing cold — is inhumane, dangerous and it puts their lives at risk. It’s shameful.”

But his words contained nuance not lost on Dwayne Peterson, an unhoused resident of Denver. He responded with a letter. “Dear Mr. Dreyer, With the utmost compassion for those fleeing conflict internationally, I find the language out of the mayor's office towards these individuals to be accommodating while the language towards existing houseless humans in Denver derogatory, disdainful, and hateful,” Peterson wrote. “It is not humane for anyone to endure freezing temperatures no matter their ‘journey.’ For your information it is equally ‘dangerous’ and ‘puts the lives at risk’ of those experiencing houselessness who predate the ‘dropping off’ of these migrants. There can be no ‘preparation’ for cold weather when it is anticipated to be experienced as houseless, desperate, and longing for ‘humane’ comforts, like housing, security, and safety. This administration is revolting!”

A direct line to Denver's streets

Peterson is an advocate for the unhoused and routinely keeps city officials and the news media up to date with what’s happening on Denver’s streets. I told him I thought rising tensions between the traditionally unhoused and the migrants was the elephant in the room.

“For several months late last year and earlier this year at Denver Rescue Mission personnel separated migrants from the existing population,” Peterson responded. “Migrants were given priority with ‘services,’ sleeping quarters, and meals. As exhibited by the knife-wielding subject from a week ago, verbal assaults from the existing houseless community towards migrants erupted into physical confrontations. ‘You do not belong here.’ ‘We were here first.’ ‘Where is our State of Emergency?’ ‘This is our country,’ were the most ‘mature’ comments expressed.”

In recent weeks, people experiencing homelessness have spoken at City Council meetings. Many have said they believe they should be given priority over the migrants. The mayor’s office said it is treating the migrants the same as the traditional homeless population.

As early as May, grumblings between the migrants and the traditionally unhoused have been aired at the council meetings. Brandy Majors and Jesse Lashawn Parris both referenced the “invasion” by Venezuelan migrants. “We have an all-out invasion going on,” said Parris.

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I've been in the news business 35 years, spending much of my career in editing roles at community newspapers in Southern California 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 proof that people can rebound from even severe mental illness with proper treatment. 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 in the Mile High City. You can email me news releases and story ideas at

Denver, CO

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