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Denver murder has residents questioning neighborhood disparities in city's response to homelessness

Baker and La Alma Park residents claim the city pushes encampments into already underserved neighborhoods and away from more affluent areas.
Recent murder raises disparity questions in Denver's response to homelessness
Posted at 4:11 PM, May 04, 2023

DENVER — Residents in the Baker, La Alma Park and Lincoln Park neighborhoods are sounding off about disparities when it comes to how the City of Denver addresses homeless encampments from neighborhood to neighborhood.

The frustration comes as an encampment continues to grow on Mariposa Street — the same street where a man was robbed and murdered outside his home. A man experiencing homelessness was arrested and charged with the crime.

“We were all in shock to see this happen this close to our jobs,” said Debra Joseph, who works at Denver Inner City Parish, just a few doors down from where the murder happened.

“Because we are a less affluent neighborhood, the city continues to push Safe Outdoor Spaces and homeless services in our area, putting this problem on the doorstep of already disadvantaged residents, youth and schools,” said Dawn McNulty, a mother and resident of Baker for decades.

Johnathan Douglas, 34, was right outside his home on Mariposa when he was killed. Denver police investigators used surveillance video and cell phone records to track down and arrest Stig Strong, 33.

“The police came in and they were looking at the cameras we have,” Joseph said. “And I guess that’s how they found who did it. But it’s still scary.”

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Neighbors argue that because this neighborhood is less wealthy, the city pushes more encampments into areas where residents are less likely to report.

The city now has a more robust online portal for reporting encampments, but even businesses like Movement Gym — where the Mariposa encampment is located — aren’t adequately reporting, according to some neighbors.

“With an estimated 1,000+ member check-ins per day at Movement Baker, what is management doing to keep their members safe from harm?” McNulty asked. “What is Movement Gym attempting to do to clean up this growing public health and safety concern?”

“If you have a tent encampment set-up in your front yard and you don’t report that, you have a problem,” said David Howard with Citizens for a Safe and Clean Denver. “So places like Movement Gym or any neighbor in any neighborhood or any business needs to inform the city when a problem like this crops up.”

Howard points to East Coast cities like Boston and Atlanta, which he says do a much better job at enforcement and intervention.

“We have a big difference in political theories between the old, established cities in the East — for example, Boston — and the new, progressive cities in the West — for example, Portland, Seattle, San Francisco,” Howard said. “If you look at Boston, you’ve got traditional, liberal Democrats running that city. They don’t decriminalize crime. They don’t excuse away. They don’t get confused about who the victim is. They arrest, they prosecute and they put people in treatment. We need treatment."

Denver murder has residents questioning neighborhood disparities in city's response to homelessness

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