Stone Soup Revival: Community gathers to address Denver’s housing crisis

“Love is one of those things that defies commodification,” speaker Susan Smith said to the crowd just before reading the children’s story Stone Soup. “As Denver prospers, some are left at the city’s margins. How can we imagine a prosperous city when people are hungry and homeless?”

She spoke after Aztec Dancers opened the inaugural Stone Soup Revival last Saturday with drums, dance and prayer. The event had one goal: Those able should help the homeless and people in need.

As one dancer prayed, others smudged attendees with aromatic smoke. During the ceremony, the sun shined brighter.

Soup simmered, and as people came, they brought vegetables, herbs and spices to throw into the pots.

“We all know this story because we have lived in this story,” Smith said about Stone Soup.

The event’s aim was to build public support for creating Resurrection Village, a self-managed tiny-house community for the homeless. Organizers hope to host the event monthly.

Stone Soup took place at 26th and Lawrence streets, the former home of Sustainability Park, two plots of land that housed multiple urban farms and sustainability projects for the last five years.

Housing activist D.J. Razee – one of the Denver Homeless Out Loud protesters arrested last month for building tiny homes at Sustainability Park – greeted attendees along with other volunteers. “Today should be a more joyful day,” Razee said. “Hopefully we won’t have to worry about helicopters and swats.”

Many in the diverse crowd of organizers, artists, activists, musicians, children, and people of different economic classes were friends and sympathizers already. They shared and listened to each other’s stories, created art, and welcomed those who trickled in throughout the day.

A stage featured speakers, artists and performers. Announcements and introductions were made by PJ D’Amico, executive director of a social justice nonprofit The Buck Foundation, and one of the main organizers of the event.

D’Amico explained to the crowd that a group of protesters have been sleeping underneath an old oak tree since Sustainability Park was sold and locked up by private developers. The oak tree encampment serves as a sign of resistance against the lack of housing for the homeless and the shift in ownership from the city and community to a developer who will be building housing on what was once the beloved Sustainability Park.

Benjamin Donlon of Denver Homeless Out Loud said that before urban farmers had been granted permission to work the plots, the land, which was owned by the Denver Housing Authority, used to be devoted to public housing.

The buildings were demolished in 1999 and 2009. The plots remained empty until urban farmers began leasing and working the land.

Private developers bought the land from the Denver Housing Authority. On Saturday, workers with Urban Agriculture and Design were taking apart what remained of the urban farms, making way for the new city-approved developments.

Benjamin Donlon of Denver Homeless Out Loud said urban farms often increase land value — a boon for developers.

The farms at Sustainability Park, established to bring food to communities that need it most, gave the neighborhood a trendy look — so trendy that the farmers, like so many African American families before them, were pushed out by the booming real estate market.

Now, the farmers of Sustainability Park are moving their efforts elsewhere.


Photo credit: Direct Autonomous Media