Art by Brooke VanDevelder. From Abandoned Houses Series.

Art by Brooke VanDevelder. From Abandoned Houses Series.

Denver’s city officials claim repeatedly that there are enough shelter beds in our city. Yet on the coldest nights, we place as many as 500 people in overflow areas not intended for this use, and bus many more outside of town to emergency shelters. If those beds are real, why don’t they exist on those nights? Even if they did, many of these houseless folks can’t enter shelters due to prior code of conduct discipline, the rampant disease and sickness present, or because couples and families get broken up, because they are transgender, or their anxiety can’t tolerate Guineamen-like tight spaces. Many are in wheelchairs, unable to get up or down from the floor with ease. Oh yeah, did I mention a good portion of these shelter “beds” are spaces for mats on the hard floor?

These homeless and houseless human beings are not in this position fora single reason, two or three, though mental illness is often a recurring theme. Problem is, most of that mental illness is developed while living on the streets without the necessary support. In many cases, it’s not the reason they are there, which is more often than not the result of a tragic life occurrence. And it’s not the fault of cannabis, regardless of what our civic leaders like to spout in the media. Domestic violence, child abuse, job loss, PTSD, family disputes, divorce, the loss of a loved one, a health moment sans insurance, incurring a physical disability, and on and on. All risks that threaten each of us every day, holding us on the edge of a similar fate pending one bad moment in time.

 

Read the rest of this op-ed by ASAP member Kayvan Khalatbari.