DENVER — Despite opposition from neighbors, Mayor Mike Johnston announced Monday the city is moving forward with its plan to build a micro-community at Santa Fe and Iliff in southwest Denver. A groundbreaking will be held at the site this week.
In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, Johnston said he informed neighborhood residents of the plans at a gathering on the site this past weekend. He made the formal announcement in a press release Monday morning.
“This future micro-community will help get unhoused neighbors off the street and into safe, stable, supportive transitional housing while also helping us close unsafe encampments and keep neighborhoods closed to future camping," Johnston said in his post. "The groundbreaking marks important progress in our goal to get 1,000 unhoused Denverites into transitional housing before Dec. 31.”
This weekend we informed the neighboring community that we will soon break ground at 2301 S. Santa Fe Dr. This future micro-community will help get unhoused neighbors off the street & into safe, stable, supportive transitional housing while helping us close unsafe encampments, pic.twitter.com/oEWmfitO3o— Mayor Mike Johnston (@MikeJohnstonCO) October 9, 2023
It comes despite opposition from nearby residents, including Johan Stokvis.
“I think it's a bad decision,” said Stokvis. “It's a bad decision because everybody's negative about it.”
The mayor’s office said the micro-community will house 120 people and provide a variety of on-site services to help them get back on their feet.
Micro-communities are one part of the mayor’s plan to get 1,000 people off the streets by the end of the year.
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Many who live in the neighborhood gave the mayor and his staff an earful at a recent community meeting that grew tense.
“I don't want them there,” one resident told the mayor. “My rights exist as much as anyone else's and each and every one of those people.”
Johnston tried to reassure people who live near the site that it will be no threat to their safety. His office said the site will be staffed 24/7 and have a gate and fence.
Jonah said the neighborhood has prior bad experiences with people experiencing homelessness, with reports of vandalism and drug use.
“It doesn't feel like you're doing anything to actually, like, to take care or protect our neighborhood,” one man at the meeting told the mayor. “It sounds like you're putting an absolute nightmare in our backyard.”
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Not all residents are against the micro-community. Jack Unruh, the co-president of the Overland Park Neighborhood Association, said the micro-community site could help solve one of the city’s biggest challenges.
“People don't understand that these are very managed sites sites with all kinds of professional help,” said Unruh. “If you can begin to envision yourself as similar to these folks, as opposed to being appalled by how differently some of them manifest, I think it's a good thing. ”
But Stokivis said he’s not planning to stick around to see what happens with the micro-community site, which will be located just feet from his home of 22 years.
“I'm moving,” Stokvis said. “I have another property, and I'm just gonna abandon this house. I'm gonna just let it sit and rot. That's how bitter I am about this whole thing. I'm getting out of Denver.”