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Business owners fed up with encampments, drug use around Ross-Broadway Library in Denver’s Baker neighborhood

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Posted at 6:37 PM, Feb 14, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-14 20:41:21-05

DENVER -- Residents and business owners in the Baker neighborhood are fed up with encampments and drug use around the Ross-Broadway Library.

Vesper Holly just opened her new shop called Refillantrophy on East Bayaud Avenue just two doors down from the library and she says the issues are worse than she could have imagined.

“They break windows, they light fires. My door was lit on fire just actually three days ago,” Vesper Holly said.

“On a daily basis you can look out the window and see some drug deals or people that are absolutely under the influence of whatever,” said Heather Farrell, owner of Coco Coquette, a wig shop next to Refillanthropy.

Farrell knows the struggle well.

“There’s a lot of times where people don’t want to walk down this street,” Farrell said. “We see daily trash that includes caps to needles, we get a lot of the burnt foil.”

Both shop owners place the blame squarely on the Ross-Broadway Library next door to them where they say rules don’t seem to apply.

“The library creates these services for people that don’t have shelters and that’s where they hang out,” Farrell said. “And people are not wanting to go to the library because of that.”

“I saw the people in the doorway and when they got up from the doorway – they went into the library,” Holly said.

The person caught on camera lighting Vesper Holly’s door on fire went straight to the library which led to a situation caught on video.

An unidentified female is heard criticizing the officers who responded for falsely accusing someone of the incident.

The officers later leave without questioning anyone about the incident.

Neighbors say that incident highlights the problem.

“We have a middle school down here and an elementary school down this way, so kids are walking back and forth literally this street,” said a neighbor named Caroline who asked us not to use her last name. “What’s really sad is – this is something that our children are having to see, and it worries me. And we need help.”

You can catch crews cleaning up outside the library every day.

And even the homeless here feel neglected.

Business owners fed up with encampments, drug use around Ross-Broadway Library in Denver’s Baker neighborhood

“We have nothing up here,” said Amber Martin who is living on the streets. “This right here is what my life consists of. It’s like we’re out here just stuck.”

Martin says while the library offers some services and maybe food on occasion, there are no bathrooms after-hours.

She feels like the mayor is too focused on downtown.

“He took everybody downtown and just left us here. And we have to sleep in the doorways, we have no restroom facilities. We have to use the restroom outdoors and clean up after ourselves. I would love to have a place to call home if the mayor wants to provide it. But he’s not doing anything down here. I need to go to the doctor, but I’m not going to go to the doctor without taking a shower.”

Back inside the shops on Bayaud, frustration is mounting over the library.

“If you are going to be a safe use haven or a safe place like that, it shouldn’t be comingled with places where children are going to be doing arts and crafts,” Holly said.

“When you have something like this happening right outside your business door, it does detract from people wanting to come in,” Caroline said.

“It really has impacted our business,” said Farrell.

“The problem is – they’re not enforcing anything else that happens outside their doors,” Holly said. “So, their view on it is – as long as they’re not using, as long as they’re not distributing in the building – it’s out of our hands.”

The library system responded by saying they are a public space where people can just be.

At the Ross-Broadway branch, they do have a community resource team, peer navigators, and social workers who can help individuals with everything from food to housing, to navigating job resources.

They also have a security clerk who works 40 hours a week, but they do not patrol the library grounds after hours.

Camping is not allowed on the library grounds and a spokesperson said they do not condone drug use.

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