Denver: A haven for monied millennials, a hazard for the poor
Denver ranks sixth in the list of cities with the largest populations of rich millennials.
Yes, this is new Denver — the same city that evicted the homeless from, well, homelessness, earlier this month. Dump trucks showed up near downtown camps and workers loaded them up with the few possessions of the poorest of the poor.
This is how The Denver Post’s Tom McGhee started his story about the sweep:
Homeless people and their advocates screamed obscenities Tuesday as public works crews cleared away camps where many of the homeless have been living.
Denver police stood by, receiving their share of abuse.
Poor law enforcement, right?
Just ask the families of Marvin Booker or Michael Lee Marshall — homeless men who died at the hands of sheriff’s deputies in the jail — how sensitive Denver’s law enforcement system is when it comes to addressing the experience of living without a home.
Or ask the clients and volunteers at Catholic Worker homeless shelter, which burned this winter as a behemoth condo rose to loom above Five Points — a neighborhood once known as the Harlem of the West, which is now a white hipster enclave for downtown workers.
Denver’s homeless can’t be guaranteed a safe spot on the streets, in shelters, in houses or apartments — and not even in jail — under the policies of Mayor Michael Hancock’s administration.
Things are so dire that housing advocates have been trained with talking points to softened the no-housing blow: You’re probably not going to find shelter in this city. How does that make you feel?
City officials justify the sweep by saying the filth and the grime of the homeless camps were a health hazard.
Point taken. But if you have no home and you can’t live outside, what exactly are you supposed to do? Roll over and die? Isn’t that a health hazard too?
This is what the ACLU of Colorado’s Executive Director Nathan Woodliff-Stanley had to say the day of the sweeps:
“The ACLU of Colorado is deeply concerned by the City of Denver’s approach to the visible presence of people who are homeless downtown, including today’s sweep and seizure of personal possessions in the areas directly adjacent to the Rescue Mission, St. Francis Center, and Samaritan House.
Since the last sweep of the same area on a frigid, snowy December night last year, the number of people trying to exist and survive without housing in Denver has continued to grow. Denver residents are understandably discomforted and frustrated by the sight of so many poor and vulnerable people living in extreme poverty. The answer to that discomfort and frustration cannot be increased criminalization and draconian sweeps that push away and attempt to hide impoverished people out of sight. Criminalization and displacement are short–term approaches that exacerbate rather than solve root causes of poverty and homelessness.
People who are homeless deserve the right to rest, the right to move freely in public spaces, and the fundamental right to be secure in their personal belongings, especially when those belongings are all that they have in the world.
The problem comes down to this: Denver’s median rent is $1,942 and the median home value is $331,100, according to Zillow. The median household income is $69,205 as of 2014. In other words, good luck finding a place to live if you’re not earning anything near that rate — or if you’re not earning anything at all.
The prices aren’t the least bit daunting to millennial techies who are are flocking to the city. Some 3.3 percent of them net an annual income of more than $350,000 a year. They can afford — and afford to drive up — the housing market.
Zillow’s explanation for the rich millennial boom? “Few housing markets are as hot as in Denver, where an influx of energy, finance and tech jobs have attracted young people to high-paid positions.”
The market’s so hot it burns.
Photo credit: Photo credit: Geoff Livingston, Creative Commons, Flickr.
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