In reporting on two recent hotel purchases to house about 300 of Denver’s homeless at a cost of $30 million in taxpayer dollars, we referred to the projects as ghettos in the making.
Ghettos in modern terms were federal housing project experiments backed by liberal Democrats for the urban poor and middle class, many of which tragically spawned rampant drug use and violence, becoming so notorious that many of the slums were demolished.
From gang violence to the robust drug trade to the incompetence of many local housing authority offices, large-scale government housing has seen some very dark days. Sadly, it’s the projects’ most vulnerable residents, the young and the very old, who suffer the most. They are the ones who get caught in the crossfire of racially segregated, poverty stricken, structurally flawed buildings—the ones who the system truly fails.
But the Denver Post insisted in an editorial Tuesday that governments now getting into the housing homeless business will turn out nothing like government getting into the housing poor and middle class business that created the 20th century ghettos.
The Post applauds Denver’s plan to buy abandoned hotels to convert into so-called assisted living programs for transitional and long-term housing to eventually house nearly 1,000 street dwellers.
The Post grudgingly admits that Aurora’s plans to do more than just house but pursue actual commitments from the residents to get a job, get help for mental issues, deal with drug addiction is also a good idea.
Never one to embrace tough love, the Denver Post’s solution would be to meld both approaches.
It’s a vision shared by Aurora City Councilmember Dustin Zvonek, who wants to see increased mental health and addiction treatment for homeless individuals in the Denver Metro. It’s a model that he says recognizes that the biggest obstacle standing between people and stability is not acquiring housing but the challenges of chronic drug use and untreated illnesses like schizophrenia and manic depression.
Zvonek’s plea is for federal dollars set aside for “housing first” programs be made available to treatment-focused programs, including a planned one-stop homeless center in Aurora.
If government is going to get into housing the homeless, the only way to avoid creating a new century of ghetto living is the path pushed by Zvonek and Aurora Mayor Mke Coffman.
Denver’s solution of just getting them off the streets first without any commitment by the “resident” to get help and better themselves is a recipe for failure.