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Parents call on Denver mayor to remove homeless encampment before school starts

Neighbors and business owners say encampment sits directly on the bike path students use to get to South High School and other neighborhood schools
Posted at 4:28 PM, Aug 09, 2023

DENVER — At Broadway and Bayaud, the sidewalk on the southwest corner of the intersection is nearly impassable due to a growing homeless encampment. It's a frustration for parents as the new school year approaches.

“This is the Bayaud bike path,” said Dawn McNulty, who has a student attending Denver South High School this year. “This is the connection between the Baker historic neighborhood and our community schools.”

McNulty and other parents say this is how their kids get from Baker across a busy Broadway to South High, and the encampment is a direct violation of the city’s own commitment to the Safe Routes to Schoolprogram.

“And if we want to look at environmental, sustainable growth of our city, we need to stay committed to these Safe Routes to School and to Denver youth,” said McNulty. “This is a dangerous encampment. It is drug addiction, it is distribution, it is violence. You can talk to some of the business owners just across the street and they’ll tell you all about the violence and vandalism.”

One of those business owners is Lauren McLaughlin, who just opened Fern and Skye this past November.

“It was really on my heart to just open this space,” McLaughlin said. “Over 60 local artists and makers, me included.”

And yet since opening, McLaughlin says the challenges with the unhoused are getting worse.

“Our windows have been smashed twice,” she said. “I’ve had problems with my staff members feeling unsafe; I personally have often felt unsafe in the middle of the day on a Wednesday afternoon just walking to my shop. When our windows were smashed, we have them on camera and basically, the police said they weren’t going to do anything about it. Those were their exact words, in fact.”

The mayor’s office said Wednesday he has done a lot in his first month.

His office touts its efforts to engage encampments, saying it has contacted more than 200 unhoused people so far in his first month.

They’ve also held seven town hall meetings, have six groups in the mayor’s office working on homeless issues and are still committed, they say, to getting 1,000 homeless individuals into housing by the end of the year.

But McLaughlin can’t help but remain skeptical.

“I’ve had to lock the doors because people have had knives out and I’ve felt unsafe,” McLaughlin said. “An important thing is ensuring public safety above all else and right now, that’s just not the case.”

And parents say the mayor’s lack of response to this encampment at Broadway and Bayaud directly violating Safe Routes to School, doesn’t cut it either.

“We should be able to walk on our sidewalks safely,” McNulty said. “And our children should have Safe Routes to School free of illicit drug use and meth addiction. If our children and the youth of Denver are not prioritized, I’m not sure how we as parents can continue to raise our children in this city.”

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