Re­sponses to Cal­dara on home­less­ness in Den­ver

The Denver Post - - PERSPECTIVE - Re: David A. French, Ken Miller, Pa­tri­cia Cro­nen­berger,

It was hard to be­lieve the one-sided view­point in Jon Cal­dara’s col­umn on the con­di­tion of the home­less in our city and the Den­ver’s Road Home pro­gram. He stated clearly the prob­lem but of­fered no so­lu­tions and said that “the more we have to deal with the mess … the more we lose any sym­pa­thy we had for the home­less … .”

It should be to the con­trary. Cal­dara in­fers that we have to deal with these prob­lems of home­less­ness that gov­ern­ment “won’t fix and even makes worse.” He is right that the is­sues are com­plex and multi-faceted, but it will take both pub­lic and pri­vate ini­tia­tives to al­le­vi­ate the prob­lems. Enough money has not been spent in the right places. It is now time to take a deeper look at the is­sues of men­tal health, drug and al­co­hol ad­dic­tion and prac­ti­cal en­try-level jobs.

It will not only take more tran­si­tional hous­ing but more teams of coun­selors who can as­sess the var­ied in­di­vid­ual prob­lems of the home­less so that they can lead more pro­duc­tive lives. A more hu­man touch is needed.

Luck­ily it seems the mayor and gover­nor are now work­ing on pro­grams with the pri­vate sec­tor to ef­fec­tu­ate new so­lu­tions for a prob­lem that will al­ways re­main com­plex.

What a re­lief read­ing Jon Cal­dara’s col­umn. Having lived in the Cur­tis Park/ Five Points neigh­bor­hood for the past 36 years, I can say that this prob­lem has never been worse here, sub­sti­tut­ing our homes and al­leys for Cal­dara’s of­fice build­ing is­sues.

First, may I re­mind the pol­icy mak­ers that vow­ing to “end” home­less­ness is a catch­phrase that is dis­sem­i­nated through­out the coun­try within hours of its pro­nounce­ment and will at­tract count­less more to fill the ranks. There is no “end” un­til it ceases na­tion­wide.

Sec­ond, it is a fal­lacy to use one term to iden­tify a very di­verse street com­mu­nity. Many seek as­sis­tance to leave the streets and es­tab­lish a bet­ter life, while many have be­come pro­fes­sional street peo­ple un­in­ter­ested in ac­cept­ing any per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity for their con­di­tion, only to de­mand to­tal care.

At our most re­cent tent camp, a sign was set out ask­ing, “Where are we sup­posed to go?” Isn’t that a ques­tion they should be ask­ing them­selves while be­ing of­fered al­ter­na­tives from the home­less-sup­port com­mu­nity?

Now en­er­gized by lo­cal law firms (which sup­ply the nu­mer­ous video cam­eras and record­ings to find grounds for on­go­ing “ha­rass­ment”), many have be­come pro­fes­sion­al­ized through le­gal prep­ping. We all want to help the home­less, but many don’t want as­sis­tance — they want to­tal, one-sided care.

Jon Cal­dara rec­og­nizes that home­less­ness is a “very com­plex, multi-faceted and dif­fi­cult is­sue” and goes on to of­fer his “sim­ple re­al­ity-based ob­ser­va­tion.” Most any­one who lives or works in down­town Den­ver can of­fer that. How­ever, a per­son in his po­si­tion has ac­cess to and prob­a­bly has read some thought­ful com­men­tary on home­less­ness. If ever there was an is­sue that re­quires all hands on deck, this is one, but Cal­dara does not of­fer any con­struc­tive thoughts about home­less­ness. In­stead, his piece was just about say­ing “no” to the re­al­ity-based poli­cies and ini­tia­tives of oth­ers.

A man sits with his be­long­ings while Den­ver of­fi­cials clear home­less camps on Lawrence Street near Sa­mar­i­tan House on Nov. 15. RJ San­gosti, Post file

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