Free Fourth of July BBQ for Denver’s homeless

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DENVER -- Several local groups came together to provide a special Fourth of July celebration for people who don’t have anywhere else to go.

Nearly 12 percent of the homeless people in Denver are veterans, according to the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.

The free barbecue was held at the Crossroads Resource Center (1901 29th St.) at midday Monday.

The event was put on by the Salvation Army, King Soopers/City Market, Swire Coca-Cola and other local businesses, according to a statement. It is the only free celebration of its kind in Denver, officials said.

Food was cooked, plates were filled and hunger was satisfied. Organizers served hamburgers, hot dogs, baked beans, cold beverages and ice cream sandwiches.

Capt. Eric Wilkerson with the Salvation Army had a busy day.

“Our population was 160, 180, it was under 200 every night. Now it would be a rare night when our population was under 400," he said.

The number of homeless men using the shelter is taxing the resources of the Salvation Army and according to them, the cause of it all is as clear as smoke.

“The homeless population is exploding fundamentally because of the marijuana laws. People are coming here from out of state to smoke weed,” Wilkerson said.

He cites violence on the 16th Street Mall to the now legal rocky mountain high.

“We’ve had some interesting criminal experiences on the 16th Street Mall, haven’t we," he said.

The Salvation Army men’s shelter sits in an economically exploding neighborhood with businesses, and high-rise condos and apartments growing as fast as the marijuana industry in Colorado.

The shelter has been offered $8 million for its one-acre plot. It's not selling.  As the pot business grows in Colorado, they say, so does the homeless population.

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