DENVER (KDVR) — Homeless encampments continue to spread across the metro area creating a challenge for city officials searching for solutions for all residents.
Jerry Mendez spent twenty years living on the streets. He tells the FOX31 Problem Solvers it is a tough life.
“You never know what’s going to happen out there, a lot of violence” he said.
Thanks to community programs, Mendez was able to get back on his feet and now has a home of his own.
“I’m pretty damn proud of myself” he said.
But when Mendez saw a makeshift “tent city” pop up near Albion Street and Colorado Boulevard, he and his neighbors became angry.
He tells FOX31 the gathering of homeless people poses a threat to nearby families “because kids would be out here”.
The Problem Solvers talked to those living in a tent near Park Hill Golf Club. They didn’t want to reveal their identity but one man urged Denver residents to show compassion to those in need.
“Some people out here have jobs and can’t afford any housing” he said.
A local volunteer warned “some of these people who walk by end up being evicted themselves!”
Mendez says he wants city officials to do more to provide housing for the homeless so tent cities don’t get out of control.
The City’s efforts to provide housing for those on the streets has included setting up facilities at the Denver Coliseum and most recently, helping those living in tents near Morey Middle School.
Outreach workers have provided shelter referrals, permanent housing, hotel rooms and connections with Veterans Affairs programs. The staff has also reunited several individuals with their families. The Denver Department of Housing Stability tells the Problem Solvers possible sites for safe outdoor spaces are currently under review.
Even with that, many residents are saying “not in my backyard” continuing an emotional game of musical chairs sending homeless groups shuffling from one neighborhood to another. Craig Fitchett of Delwest Development Corporation is working to find solutions. Delwest has built thousands of apartment units, including affordable housing.
He tells the Problem Solvers it will take those who have power to help those without any at all.
“With power comes great responsibility” he said.
Fitchett emphasizes that the homeless need hope. He adds that property owners, city officials and residents can work together to find solutions that everyone can live with.
“They say the moment makes the man, I hope this moment makes the city” he said.
Many programs that assist the homeless depend on donations. If you would like to help visit the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless website.
Residents with concerns about encampments should call or email 311. Any resident who feels their safety is threatened or witnesses criminal activity should call 911.