DENVER -- People living and working in River North are upset about a clash between two communities. For years, the homeless population has seen this area as home and a place to receive supportive services. Now new tenants are expressing their concerns with the cleanliness and safety of the area.
"The challenge there is how do we create options for homelessness to be part of the fabric of that community as its growing,” said Chris Conner, Director of Denver’s Road Home.
Denver’s Road Home is a city and government agency that works with non-profit providers on the ground in Denver to offer homeless supportive services.
“Case managers, outreach workers, navigators as well as special initiatives and capital projects can be completed so we can serve people in homelessness to get out of their situations and to housing and permanency,” said Conner.
As RiNo grows, the path from the Salvation Army Crossroads Resource Center location on 29th Street to homeless services and shelters nearby is becoming more heavily traveled along Brighton Boulevard as it transitions into Broadway Street.
"Something needs to happen. It’s gotten to the point where it is hard to live down there,” said RiNo resident Josh Rosenberg. "It’s not just one or two homeless guys sleeping on the street, there’s been times where they will set up camp and have tarps and suitcases and shopping carts and kind of make a little village out of it and they'll be there until somebody calls the police."
The Denver Rescue Mission now serves more than 800 people a night with three shelters and provides the Lawrence Street Community Center for homeless people to go inside during the day.
“We have seen probably a quadrupling of homelessness in Denver over the last four years,” said Tracy Brooks, Senior Director of Emergency Services at Denver Rescue Mission. “We have been able to move individuals out of homelessness in 2017. We placed 119 individuals into long term solutions. This year we have placed 273 into long term solutions. 50 percent of them are working, so they have jobs they just can’t afford housing.”
The homeless population that chooses to stay on the streets during the day is impacting some RiNo businesses.
"It’s not much of a burden, more of an outlook on how it makes our business look,” said Anthony Delgrego, employee at Eaglerider Motorcycles. “Customers come and they are coming to spend several thousands of dollars on a rental of a motorcycle and they see people sleeping across the street and they see people peeing in corners and drugs all kinds of things happening, it’s very unprofessional.”
As for solutions, the city of Denver currently invests about $40 million a year on homeless programs and support. Denver’s Road Home wants to put more resources and investment toward affordable housing and getting people into jobs through programs such as the Denver Day Works Program.
“From the curbside level to have the opportunity to be working within the parks system, within the public works system, which ultimately turns into a city job,” said Conner.
Some RiNo residents believe there needs to be a different approach.
“It’s not a housing issue from what I've seen,” said Rosenberg. “It’s usually a mental issue or alcohol issue. Putting them in a free house, not even rent controlled, but even if it was free most of them I don’t think would be there. The ones that would be there would probably trash the units.”