DENVER – An emergency declaration on homelessness, several community meetings on homelessness, and after that, a declaration to end homelessness. This was all in new Denver Mayor Mike Johnston’s first week in office.
While much is under discussion, there remains uncertainty about the direction of this new administration.
“I have faith,” said community organizer Brian Luma. “I’m in meetings.”
Luma and others were at Civic Center Park Friday for an event hosted by the Denver Police, where services were provided to the homeless and needy.
“We haven’t seen an effective solution to end illegal camping on Denver’s streets,” said Craig Arvestine with the Citizens for a Safe and Clean Denver, who was present at the event Friday.
But homeless rights activists were also in attendance, hoping for more cooperation from the city than they’ve seen in the past.
“We don’t support raids,” said Amy Beck, a homeless rights activist. “But if they continue, we want to work with the city and the new administration because we didn’t cooperate with the previous administration.”
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Just five days into the new mayor’s administration, Denver residents are hearing a few things from the mayor’s office to address the homelessness crisis: Johnston’s first priority is immediate action to improve the quality of life for those who live on the streets, while making sure slum-dwelling neighbors are considered. The department will also test new ways to see what works best to help the unhoused, including garbage collection and cleanliness at campsites.
While there seem to be mixed messages about whether the sweeps will end or continue – one thing everyone agrees on is that the chatter about the new mayor’s policy is at least a sign of progress – after years of what most agree is a failed policy.
“The painful exodus of human beings from the camps to nowhere is what we call the Denver decade of doom,” Luma said.
On the other hand, Beck said she is ready to see what this new administration will bring to the negotiating table to start working toward a solution to address homelessness.
“I think Johnston is open to ideas,” Beck said. “I’m really happy to see him declare a state of emergency which I think is where we need to start.”
Denver residents express hope and frustration about the mayor’s plan to tackle homelessness
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