May 24, 2021

When I was driving north last week, I took the side route into town.  This is part of the Scenic Byway through the Boston Mountains that I occasionally take to see if I can locate any new birds.  I have noticed several species of hawks, but they always seem to fast or wary for me to get a picture.  This time I noticed a trailer house that had slid off the road and into the ditch.  The house did not appear to be damaged, but neither was it going anywhere until some moving equipment pulled it out.  The authorities had obviously been notified as there were orange cones placed to keep people from accidently running into the house.  Apparently, someone had taken up temporary residence in the house.  As I drove by today it had caught fire (from inside) and the house had burned to the ground.

I was forwarded an article by Vicky Collins of NBC News that reported the dilemma for the homeless in the Denver area.  Advocates said unsheltered people were being left behind in Covid-19 mitigation, and they devised a plan to provide temporary safe outdoor spaces where people could access shelter, meals, medical care, and other services.  Two collaborative camps have already been set up downtown and were well received.  Surveys of residents in the Denver area have all been supportive.  When the pastor of a church in the suburbs announced it would create a temporary camp in their parking lot for about 40 unsheltered people, many community residents objected.  “When I bought in Park Hill, it wasn’t because there was a homeless encampment one block from my front door,” said a man who lives near the church. “If I wanted to live in downtown Denver and near homelessness in my face every day, having people sleep on my patio or go to the bathroom on my garage, I would live downtown.”

Collins described Park Hill as “full of flowering trees, stately brick homes and cozy bungalows.  Black Lives Matter signs adorn front lawns in the largely white neighborhood surrounding the church, and in the 2020 election, about 67 percent of voters in Park Hill cast ballots for Joe Biden.”  Five Park Hill residents filed a lawsuit earlier this month in Denver District Court to stop the encampment and seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent the project from moving forward.  The lawsuit said the camp “pose[s] a real danger to minors and school-aged children.”  The lawsuit was dismissed by the court Wednesday, and the Colorado Village Collaborative is on track to open the camp June 14 after securing a city permit.  Some seem to think temporary is too long.

Thoughts:  When I lived in Berkeley, California, I was literally across the street from People’s Park.  On April 20, 1969, the blighted, empty lot next to (and owned by) the university campus was seized by a diverse ground of people and turned into a public park.  This temporary venture has now gone on for 52 years.  The Free Speech Stage on the west side of the Park has been a focal point for anyone to stand and deliver whatever significant oration they deem worthy.  It has since become a magnet for homeless people, and a longstanding tradition of feeding people at the park by East Bay Food Not Bombs continues to this day.  I find it interesting have many temporary ventures become permanent.  Like the Park Hill community, helping the disenfranchised is a great idea, if you do it somewhere else.  That means these temporary sites have nowhere else to go but are still desperately needed.  Do the work.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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