In 2005 then Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper launched an ambitious plan to “end homelessness” within 10 years in the city of Denver.
Now, he’s about to get some new neighbors.
Denver homeless camp is moving to church parking lot in affluent neighborhood and will test the city's resolve on a thorny issue. #COSen Hickenlooper's lives within view of the church. https://t.co/3T0T56SmNu#copolitics #Denver #AxiosDenver #Colorado
— John Frank (@ByJohnFrank) April 6, 2021
A homeless encampment sanctioned by the city of Denver in Capitol Hill will be relocating just one block away from Hickenlooper’s home at the Park Hill United Methodist Church.
The homeless encampment will also be feet from a pre-school at the same location.
Residents around the current sites in Capitol Hill have complained the sanctioned camps have done little to deter other encampments from popping up around the neighborhood.
There is a special irony that Hickenlooper, who once declared he would “end homelessness,” would end up with an encampment mere feet from his $2.5 million home.
Hickenlooper launched an initiative to end homelessness, known as Denver’s Road Home (DRH) in 2005.
The project ended in dismal failure.
The city of Denver released a scathing audit of DRH in 2015, alleging that DRH had failed to collect any meaningful data to judge whether they were making any progress at ending homelessness.
The audit found that DRH has not taken advantage of important resources to reduce homelessness in Denver. First, DRH has not consistently gathered data from service providers it funds, nor has it analyzed this information to demonstrate whether progress towards ending homelessness has been made. In fact, only in year ten of Denver’s Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness has DRH begun to focus on analyzing the data it receives. In addition, DRH has not structured or managed the Commission so that this advisory group can help the City’ policymakers develop solutions to homelessness in Denver.
The audit was particularly brutal for Hickenlooper considering he bragged to PBS in 2008 about how DRH was especially data-driven.
HICKENLOOPER: We went out and measured how many homeless we had, how much we were spending – $40,000 per person, per year on the chronically homeless, to perpetuate lives of misery. We can spend less than half of that and put that person in a shelter, give them wraparound services, and counseling, and job training, get them into a job. And suddenly, we’re saving money at the same time we are doing something humanitarian.
When questioned about his failure to end homeless and the humiliating audit in 2015, then-Gov. Hickenlooper claimed that his stated goal of “ending homeless” in 10 years was simply a “marketing effort.”
“No one is more disappointed than I am—or all the other mayors, right?” Hickenlooper said to CPR. “There were 280 cities across the United States that committed to 10-year plans to end homelessness—and we always knew that we weren’t going to end homelessness. Right? That’s a marketing effort to get everyone’s attention to say, ‘Alright, Let’s really work on this.'” [emphasis added]
However, former Denver Post editor Vincent Carroll disputed Hickenlooper’s characterization of DRH as a “marketing effort.”
Carroll said Hickenlooper was deadly serious when he announced his plan to “end homelessness” in 10 years.
“The 10-year-plan to end homelessness was not merely a marketing ploy,” Carroll told the Washington Free Beacon by email. “Those who crafted and promoted the plan were entirely serious in their belief that they had the policy keys to eliminate homelessness. They were terribly naive, as some of us sensed at the time.”
Providing further evidence Hickenlooper lied when confronted with the embarrassing audit, then-Executive Director of DRH Jamie Van Leeuwen said in 2009 “…along came [Mayor Hickenlooper], who said I don’t just want to move a person or two off the streets – I really want to end homelessness in 10 years [emphasis added].
For his part, Hickenlooper hasn’t sounded especially bothered about the failure of DRH whenever it has come up.
“If I’m out in Denver on a weeknight, or pretty much any time, I’ll almost always have some guy come up to me and thank me for having helped turn his life around,” he told 9News in 2016.
The proposed encampment at the United Methodist Church in Park Hill is still subject to zoning permit approval by Mayor Hancock’s administration.
It will be fascinating to see whether Hickenlooper and his fellow limousine liberal neighbors in Park Hill work behind the scenes to scuttle the relocation plans.
Get the popcorn ready!