I believe that housing that Bo wants to build is partly for homeless veterans. They may be in trouble in their lives but if we as a city are making a commitment to help people get back on their feet, then the NIMBY attitude has got to change. Neighborhoods have to realize that these folks are part of the community and they are going to be there regardless. Wouldn't it be smarter to have them stable then not? Kudos to Bo for doing this work as always.
Denver wants to raze a group of aging, dun-colored homes and shops at Downing Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard to make way for 28 apartments for the homeless.
The proposal has the support of some area residents.
But others worry that catering to the homeless will discourage development on nearby properties that could help the Five Points neighborhood.
"Everybody is concerned for the welfare of these (homeless) people," said Linda Dowlen, president of the nearby Whittier Neighborhood Association. But "we want to be supportive in a way that helps them and helps the community."
The apartments would become part of Denver's Road Home - Mayor John Hickenlooper's plan to put homeless people into apartments where they can receive services such as job training and substance-abuse counseling.
The project is being eyed warily by members of the Cole, Curtis Park and Whittier neighborhood associations. They note that their communities already include most of the city's shelters and homeless facilities, which are clustered on Broadway between Curtis Street and Park Avenue.
But at least some community leaders say they would accept the facility for the homeless if it were offered as part of a larger community plan that included middle-class housing and shops.
"I'm against it being concentrated poverty," said City Councilwoman Carla Madison, who represents the area. "If we can't get this to be a larger project, I don't know if I can support it. But if we can get it to be a larger project, then I think the 28 is not a bad (idea)."
The site being eyed for homeless facility 28 is within walking distance of the 30th Avenue and Downing Street light-rail station, Madison said. It is an ideal site for "transit-oriented development," a mixture of housing and shops convenient for people who use the rail line, she said.
City officials have said they favor such development at light-rail stations as a way to boost ridership.
Madison said she would like to see between 75 and 100 dwelling units in the area. The 28 apartments for the homeless would be included, she said.
A major neighborhood-planning project is scheduled for 2009, Dowlen noted. The future of the Downing and Martin Luther King site should reflect the larger plan, she said.
The city has 1,243 apartments for people who previously were homeless. The goal is 3,000 over the next few years.
The city would be unlikely to impose the northeast Denver project on a community that is adamantly opposed, Madison said. Developers would have to reach a "good neighbor" agreement with the community groups, setting forth standards the facility would have to meet.
The 28 new units would be built by the private Matthews Center LLC, named for former University of Colorado football star and businessman Bo Matthews, who lives in Adams County but owns several parcels in northeast Denver.
The Matthews Center already runs programs in the area for troubled people.
Management of the building would be turned over to a property management firm, said Claudie Minor, Matthews' project manager. Denver's Road Home would arrange services for the people who move.
Integrating the 28 units into a larger development scheme could delay the project, which is scheduled to open in 2010, said Pat Coyle, Denver's Road Home housing coordinator. That could jeopardize state funding for the project, Coyle said.
Former addict turns focus on others
Ron Lee, 53, has lived in the Whittier neighborhood since 1993. He is a substance abuse counselor but is between jobs. At a recent community meeting, he shared the following with Rocky Mountain News.
"I have a very diverse background, one that endears me to the plight of the homeless, the plight of the addict, the plight of the lawbreaker - I've been all of that at one point in my life.
"Today, I'm a respected father, husband, aspiring substance abuse counselor, motivational speaker.
"I've been in recovery for seven years. (But) my addiction went unchecked for almost 30 years.
"I come from a very abusive background. My mother made some bad choices as far as husbands. One thing led to another. I was kind of a child observing all this and suffering the consequences, mentally and otherwise.
"I had a breakdown around the age of 14, and Zebulon Pike Detention Center (in El Paso County) got me. . . . I was literally a loner, I had nobody. I just had very severe emotional problems from what I had been through. I asked to be sent to the Colorado Boys Ranch. . . . I went from there to the Air Force.
"When you're coming out of prison, when they say, 'We'll see you again' - and that's what the guards tell you when you pick up your little outfit and you're headed out the gate - you think they're crazy. But more often than we like to see, people do end up right back there because they're not equipped emotionally to deal with life."I'm not making excuses for what I did or for what others do. I'm just saying the reasons are much more complicated than the casual person sitting on the couch with his clicker wants to get involved with.
Rocky Mountain News