Denver’s homeless problem taking toll on businesses

DENVER -- Some Denver business owners say the city's growing homeless problem is taking a toll on their bottom line, and they aren't sure what to do about it.

Kyle Hollingsworth is the manager of the Holiday Chalet Bed and Breakfast, a business along Colfax Avenue that's bearing the brunt of the homeless problem.

He said guests are occasionally accosted by transients. Some of those transients are drinking or even shooting up with drugs in plain sight.

"It literally scares people away because a lot of people that come here have families or have kids and when they see something like that immediately when they arrive it throws them off our place," he said.

Hollingsworth said he is constantly playing the role of security guard and is also constantly picking up trash in front of the building. He said he's found needles and human feces on the property.

"It was literally right here," he said, pointing to a wall just a few feet from the business. "They literally sat down and defecated right here."

Some of the homeless along Colfax aren't denying it happens.

"They hang out here all day long. They drink their alcohol. They smoke their pot," said a homeless woman named Karon. "I don't know if I feel for the business owners. Where are the homeless supposed to go?"

Just across from the bed and breakfast there is a gas station and U-Haul rental center confronting similar problems.

The manager said his boss just put up a fence to try to prevent the homeless from sleeping in rental trucks.

Many of the homeless camp out on the property all day, and when it rains, many seek cover under an awning near the gas pumps where they smoke cigarettes. Employees fear it could lead to tragedy.

"We have to come like 10 times in 10 minutes telling them not to smoke," manager Dilpret Nat said. "We've been trying new things for the last few months and I don't really think it's working out. We have some issues."

Denver City Councilwoman Robin Kniech said the city is paying attention. That's one reason one of Denver's two mobile restrooms is parked just down the street.

She said it's an attempt to alleviate just one of the problems business owners are seeing.

"In the immediate vicinity of the restroom, folks are seeing fewer people using their lawns and alleys to go to the bathroom," Kniech said.

But it's a problem business owners fear will grow worse as the summer weather returns.