Vandalism in Denver park draws ire of neighbors who say they're ready for new direction under Mayor Johnston

Mayor pledges to get 1,000 homeless people off streets of Denver by end of 2023 and says he'll cut red tape around tiny home "micro-communities"
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Posted at 3:53 PM, Jul 26, 2023

DENVER — Neighbors who live near Dailey Park in the Baker neighborhood say they are constantly dealing with homeless issues and other crime, and told Denver7 Wednesday they are ready for a new direction under Mayor Mike Johnston to address the growing crisis.

Graffiti showed up overnight all around the park, just the latest in what neighbors call a string of incidents, including vandalism and other crime.

In his first full day as Denver’s mayor last Tuesday, Mike Johnston declared a state of emergency around homelessness. As part of that declaration, he announced a plan to house 1,000 unsheltered people by the end of this year.

Johnston has already started holding community meetings and touring neighborhoods and said this week he’ll visit 78 Denver neighborhoods as part of the plan and look at hotels to place people temporarily.

His office states it is also looking at 200 public plots of land to place tiny homes on, and he’s cutting the red tape so that the city can process permits and applications and construct these tiny home "micro-communities" very quickly.

“Tents are not real housing,” said Rebecca Stuart, owner of Erickson Monuments. “Are they better than nothing? Absolutely.”

Stuart’s business sits right across the street from the Safe Outdoor Space tent camp in Denver’s La Alma Park neighborhood.

“You get nervous when you hear that something like this is going to open next to your business,” Stuart said.

But, she said, for the most part, they’ve been good neighbors.

Vandalism in Denver park draws ire of neighbors who say they're ready for new direction under Mayor Johnston

“Any issues that we have, garbage, whatever, I go over there and say something, and they fix it,” Stuart said. “It’s much better than we thought. I think the activity in the neighborhood has been good for us.”

There is renewed hope now, among those like Stuart and others in the new mayor’s promise.

“Honestly, I think everyone wants housing,” said Edward Garcia, who was homeless for four years and just found housing five weeks ago. “I haven’t had my license in years and now I have a driver’s license and a job. If the new mayor is planning to build tiny homes, I think things will only get better.”

Stuart is also hopeful.

“They’re doing something,” Stuart said. “It’s step up. It’s a step in the right direction. (Tent camps) are not a solution. And they let developers do whatever they want and say there’s going to be affordable housing when there’s not. I don’t know how you’re going to solve that in a few months without services, but there’s always hope.”

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