DENVER – Business owners in the Ballpark neighborhood say they’re getting fed up with the human waste, vomit, stench of urine and used needles being left on sidewalks and alleys by urban campers.
“I’m looking for answers from the community,” said Lisa Franz, owner of Frank’s Gentlemen’s Salon at 21st and Larimer.
Fabric of the Community
“Homeless residents are part of the fabric of this community,” she said, “We have a working relationship with three or four who help take out the trash.”
But as you listen to Lisa talk, you can tell that fabric is showing some wear and tear.
“The demographics are changing,” she said. “We’re seeing more transient travelers. It’s a more drug-addicted population, and frankly, scary, when we come to work in the morning and don’t know if they’re passed out, dead or just napping.”
Justin Franzen, owner of the comedy-oriented Grafenberg Theater, said tent cities are nothing new.
“It’s become more public,” he said, “more on the sidewalk. I definitely think there is more drug use.”
Franzen said he too has had to clean the pavement near the theater’s rear exit.
“I use a bucket of water,” he said, “or a hose. I’ve got a hundred feet of hose, so I can hook it up to the water.”
Denver7 took the business owners' concerns to the city.
Danica Lee, Director of Public Health Investigations for Denver Public Health & Environment, said the city is aware of an increase in campers in some parts of the city.
When asked what business owners can do when the situation is overwhelming, like the stench of waste or a urine-soaked alley, she said, “Definitely call 311. We address these issues on a case by case basis, depending on the severity of the issue.”
Ms. Lee said the city’s main concern is “first and foremost for the health of those people in exposed situations who are spending the night outdoors.”
“We try to connect them with services,” she said, with the goal of getting them indoors and off the streets.
Some business owners say many homeless people are seemingly “service-resistant,” and just want to be left alone.
“We just want a place to call our own,” said Brittanny Irvy, who moved to Denver from Arkansas, “and all people do is treat us like dirt.”
Irvy said she has no desire to live in a shelter.
“Shelters treat you like you’re in jail,” she said. “Many aren’t even clean.”
When asked why she decided to move to Denver, Irvy replied, “Because there are people here on the streets of Denver who treat you better than anybody I’ve ever known.”
She acknowledged that some homeless people are causing issues for business owners but added that many are not.
Ann Cecchine-Williams, the deputy executive director of the Department of Public Health and Environment said, “Often times, we’ve found that (people dealing with homelessness) are not truly service-resistant, instead they are sometimes legitimately simply scared of a new situation that is managed and somewhat prescribed, and they just need more information, some patience and understanding and the opportunity to experience assistance.”
Cecchine-Williams continued, “The bottom line is we need to keep folks alive. Being in a shelter not only provides warmth and some services on-site, but also can provide important connections to other resources including housing, jobs, basic medical care and counseling.”