DENVER -- The latest struggle in Denver’s homelessness crisis centers on the Five Points neighborhood and Lawson Park. Much of the park, popular with the homeless, is now closed.
Homeless advocates say the closure is just the latest move by the city and county of Denver to push the homeless from certain areas experiencing gentrification. But Denver Parks and Recreation says it simply wants to plant grass.
Lawson Park is located at Welton Street and Park Avenue West. It is largely surrounded by homeless service and resource centers.
“This is where we stay for our safety,” said homeless veteran Julian “Wolf” Begaye. “This is where we congregate.”
At least 100 people use the park every day, according to Terese Howard, founder of Denver Homeless Out Loud.
Howard complained that the newly-erected fencing has placed much of the park off limits. Denver Parks and Recreation says the closure is needed to repair the park’s irrigation system and restore turf. Seeding for new grass will not take place until temperatures drop, according to parks spokesperson Cyndi Karvaski.
Howard says she is sure the closure is just a cover to continue moving the homeless from one place to the next. With a citywide camping ban in place, where the homeless sleep has been a struggle in recent years.
“You move to another corner,” Howard explained. “You move to a hidden alleyway. You move down to the river. You hide. You’re harassed. You lose sleep. You lose property. That’s what it means.”
More people have been setting up camp near 21st and Stout streets after homeless advocates say Denver pushed the homeless away from along Park Avenue West, west of North Broadway. As business owners and residents complain, enforcement of the camping ban appears to follow.
“[We receive] a lot of harassment by the cops,” said Renee Bell, who suffers from homelessness. “Not enough help.”
Denver Parks and Recreation says that even though people aren’t allowed to camp at Lawson Park overnight, the urban campers have not been a positive influence on the grass. Work to spruce up the park could take eight to 12 weeks.