Five Points businesses see less foot traffic as homeless crisis grows

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DENVER (KDVR) –The complex issues surrounding homelessness has been more apparent than ever during a pandemic in Denver. With homeless sweeps and the closure of Lincoln Park to homeless camps, unhoused people continue to be pushed from the city’s core into different neighborhoods. 

And while Five Points historically has been a homeless refuge, considering the concentration of shelters and services in the neighborhood, business owners say they’re at a boiling point with this crisis.

“Takes the wind out of your sails when you go out there and see that constantly,” Bruce Typher with Ken’s Reproduction on the corner of Curtis Street and Broadway said. 

Typher has had a front row seat to the problems in this neighborhood for 38 years. He says he constantly sees gang and drug activity on his corner, with little change over decades. 

“This is really a byproduct of the shelters,” Typher said. “They’re feeding off of those people, or they feel a security of dealing drugs down here.”

Several businesses reached out to the Problem Solvers, sharing surveillance footage of violent crimes in the area, and say the growing crowds of people is having a massive impact on businesses there, on top of the cripple factors of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The drug dealers that are moving into the neighborhood, they’re threatening people, there has been gun violence,” Peter Katz said. “Tenants and residents are not comfortable in their neighborhood anymore.”

Katz manages a property along Broadway and Curtis as well. He says the crowds have gotten so bad that employees no longer feel safe. 

“Our tenants that try to go into the business have been spit on, they’re told they’re going to be assaulted. They just leave, they just can’t get in,” Katz said. “Right across the street you have a for lease sign and there’s no way anyone is gonna come to the neighborhood, look at that building, see what’s going on here and lease it.”

Meanwhile, people experiencing homelessness say the sweeps this summer have turned their already difficult living situations upside down.

“I even had my mother’s ashes that I had in my tent, when I left they told me I had two hours to come back and get it, and then when I left, I came around the corner and they were already moving my stuff out,” Allen Kenta said. “Makes you feel like less than human, you don’t got nowhere to go. Then when you go around the corner to get a sandwich and leave, you come back and all your stuff is gone.”

Cathy Alderman with the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless says housing has to be a major emphasis for this city to break the cycle for thousands in this city living on the streets. She points out that crime happens all over the community, and isn’t exclusive to these homeless camps.

“The people who are forced to sleep outside are highly vulnerable to criminal activity being perpetrated against them,” Alderman said.

Alderman points to initiatives like the Homelessness Resolution Fund on the November ballot that would generate up to $40 million per year that could go to homeless services by increasing Denver sales tax by .25%.

“Providing 24/7 shelter, which is something we’ve never done before, can really give someone a place to be so they’re not just bouncing between locations,” Alderman said.

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