By: James Cody
There is no denying the fact that Denver, notably the Five Points neighborhood, has a sizable homeless population that has utilized the services located in the area, and slept overnight in the shelter space provided. However, over the past few years, as Denver’s landscape has changed, people experiencing homelessness in the area have been under attack by new residents who want to see them gone. For example, in 2012 the city passed an ordinance that banned camping in city parks and on public land, a clear effort to reduce Denver’s homeless population. Recently the fight to remove people experiencing homelessness has been waged by the Ballpark Neighborhood Association (BNA), which filed a lawsuit against the new Lawrence Street Community Center that prohibited it from opening late last month.
The BNA’s lawsuit boils down to the definition of the word “expansion.” They believe the new community center has violated city-planning code by expanding the homeless services provided by the Denver Rescue Mission. In a BNA blog post addressing the issue they state that they are “NOT against the Denver Rescue Mission or the people they serve.” But one may question, why then are you depriving the homeless from accessing services they need? The truth is that BNA is worried the new center will be used as an expansion of the Lawrence Street shelter, which is a men’s overnight shelter. However, a spokesperson from the Denver Rescue Mission explained that the new center has completely different objectives than the Lawrence Street shelter. The new community center will provide a place for people experiencing homelessness to go during the day to eat, shower, and receive other supportive services to help them get back on their feet and will NOT be used to shelter homeless over night.
Green Spaces opened its doors in Denver’s Five Points neighborhood in 2009 and has called it home ever since. It is Green Spaces’ mission is to create a collaborative community for eco-friendly and socially conscious entrepreneurs to grow their business. Although our main focus is on fostering a great working community, we strongly believe that we have a responsibility to help better the surrounding community and help tackle the social issues affecting our neighborhood. As a business located near the Ball Park district we would like to explicitly state that Green Spaces does NOT support the BNA or the lawsuit that has prohibited the Lawrence Street Community Center from opening.
On Tuesday October 27th, the judge who made the initial ruling in favor of the BNA reversed his decision and the new community center is now ready to open. This is a huge victory for the people experiencing homelessness and will allow them to access much needed services; however, there is still much work that needs to be done. Green Spaces founder Jennie Nevin believes that “when our community is confronted with an issue such as homelessness, it is critical that we bring community members together to find a creative solution and not just sweep it under the rug with the hopes that someone else takes care of it.”
Green Spaces sees the opening of the Lawrence Street Community Center as the first step in the right direction and wants to continue the conversation about how to affectively alleviate homelessness in Denver . On December 7, Green Spaces will be hosting the first community conversation in a series of events that will address a wide variety of social issues in Denver head on. Join us for food, drinks, and a panel discussion about how homelessness in Denver has gotten to such an extreme point, what is currently being done to address it, and what future steps should be taken.