Residents share concerns about the site of the proposed small community in southwest Denver

DENVER — People who live near a proposed small community site in southwest Denver are speaking out and sharing their concerns. Many of them feel that the site will put them and their families at risk. They say they’ve seen it happen before.

The proposed sites are part of Denver Mayor Mike Johnston’s ambitious plan to get 1,000 homeless people off the streets by the end of the year.

It’s been less than two weeks since Johnston released an initial list of sites where he wants to build the microcommunities, which will include pallet shelters, prefabricated mini homes that can be assembled in less than an hour.

The city council approved the mayor’s request to spend $7 million on small communities. The majority of the cost, $5.1 million, will be spent on buying homes from the pallet. About two million dollars will be used to help prepare the sites.

One site will be built on a parcel of land owned by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) in Santa Fe and Elive in the Overland Park neighborhood of southwest Denver.

Denver7 spoke with several neighbors on Tuesday and found that the reaction to the proposed micro-community has been mixed.

“It’s very understandable because people’s experiences with the homeless have been so mixed,” said Jack Unruh, co-chair of the Overland Park Neighborhood Association.

Unruh is someone who is sympathetic to the plight of people experiencing homelessness. He says that during the pandemic, he often had conversations with some of them who lived in a camp in the neighbourhood.

“I knew people by name,” Unruh said.

He said he had no illusions that some of them might be involved in criminal activity. But he says they never posed any threat to him.

“They were not a threat to me because I was talking to them and I recognized them,” Unruh said.

He believes the mayor’s plan can work.

“I think many neighborhood and community leaders support the general direction he’s taking,” Unruh said.

The narrow alley is all that separates the many homes in the neighborhood from the property on which the city proposes to build the small community.

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This rendering was shared by a property owner, purporting to show the location of the proposed micro-community in Elif and Santa Fe.

Unlike Unruh, many residents didn’t have anything nice to say about the mayor’s plan when Denver 7 knocked on their doors on Tuesday. Many said they were concerned about crime and drug use, which they had experienced before when other homeless people lived in the same location.

Many residents were too afraid to speak on camera, saying they didn’t want to make a big fuss. Some say they fear reprisals.

Joy Fagan, who has lived in the neighborhood for three years, isn’t afraid to speak out.

She said the neighborhood has seen many homelessness problems in the past.

Fagan said: “This is the first summer that we did not see between 50 to 75 homeless people living in that area, and in this field, and in the cul-de-sac.” “We had them running in the street, chasing each other with guns. We had a woman lying in the middle of the street at three in the morning. We had syringes there where the kids were playing, so people stopped bringing their kids to the park because of that.

Fagan believes that the small community will encourage more of them to move into the neighborhood, leading to more problems.

“This is just a reward for bad behavior,” Fagan said. “You’re actually enabling them to stay in a situation that’s dangerous for them. It’s a bad loss.”

Robert Lee said he personally didn’t have a problem, but a neighbor told Denver7 that a homeless person threw a brick at his window.

Lee says he wants more information about the proposed micro-community site before passing judgment.

And he told me, “We can’t all be for progress but (say) not in my backyard.” “There still needs to be some effort from the community, from every community. And I think we really need more information and more concrete facts to work with and I think that will really help people feel more invested in actually participating and helping.

The mayor’s office says the proposed sites were chosen because of their proximity to public transportation, ease of access to facilities, and distance from schools, among other reasons.

Sites will include a community room, laundry rooms and restrooms.

People will also be offered services to help them get back on their feet.

The city’s mayor’s office said tiny homes will start arriving in November at locations across the city and the first units will be ready to move in in December.

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(tags for translation) Denver homeless crisis

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