Ballpark neighbors fight against homeless day center

Plan for $8.6 million facility OK'd by committee

DENVER - People living in Denver's Ballpark neighborhood say they don't want a proposed $8.6 million homeless day center built in the area.

This week, a Denver city council committee gave the initial green light for a plan to buy the property adjacent to the Denver Rescue Mission in order to build the Lawrence Street Community Center, which would include showers, restrooms and a courtyard where people could have a safe place to sit and line up for meals.

Neighbors are calling it a Band-Aid that doesn't address the larger issue of homelessness in the city.

"It's just putting up a wall and putting them behind it rather than treating what caused them to be homeless in the first place," said Scott Bauer, the vice president of the Ballpark Neighborhood Association.

In recent years, the Ballpark area has rapidly gentrified, with thousands of apartments, high-end businesses and fine dining springing up around the Denver Rescue Mission and Samaritan House.
Some neighbors are concerned a day center would bring even more homeless into the area.
"The more you provide, the more people are going to come," said David Tagieff, who lives and works in the Ballpark neighborhood. "We need to decentralize."
Tagieff said homeless services may have been here first, but they are now too concentrated and causing major issues in the developing neighborhood.
"There are people who can't rent their properties because of it," said Tagieff. "They [the homeless] defecate in the streets. They leave garbage in the streets."
Tagieff wants the city to consider buying the Rescue Mission and moving it out of the area.
"If we do not do this now, this area will forever be known as the homeless center for the city of Denver," said Tagieff.
Brad Meuli, the Denver Rescue Mission's president and CEO, defended the proposed project, saying the answer isn't moving the problem 20 miles out of town.
"This [center] isn't the end-all, but it's one piece," said Meuli. "What we are trying to do is serve the people who are here."
Denver's full city council will consider the proposal on April 21. If it is approved, the center could be constructed by next Spring, Mueli said.
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