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How Denver will hide its homeless during the Democratic convention

Next month, more than 50,000 politicos, protesters, journalists and security types will invade downtown Denver for the Democratic National Convention.

Good news for local businesses. Bad news for the city’s large homeless population, which has long claimed the Mile High City's downtown as its turf.

So while the delegates are reveling and the protesters are rabble-rousing, what will the nearly 4,000 homeless be doing?

The skyline of downtown Denver which will host the Democratic National Convention and nominate Barack Obama the last few days of August

Well, according to the Rocky Mountain News, some will be kicking back in a local movie theater to take in the latest Hollywood blockbuster.

Others will be strolling around the Denver Zoo or the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. And others will be playing bingo.

All the events will be free to them, funded by Denver Road Home, a branch of the mayor’s office dedicated to ending homelessness in the city. The organization got the money for the convention events from the United Way.

So is this a Democratic Party ploy to sanitize the streets during the quadrennial political pep rally and nomination of....

...Illinois Sen. Barack Obama? To keep the vagrants out of sight while the cameras roll?

A spokeswoman for one homeless advocacy group that received some of the extra funding says no.

“We’re not hiding the homeless,” B.J. Iacino, of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, said. “We’re housing them."

The special measures are planned because advocates say they fear the convention might traumatize the homeless, many of whom are Vietnam veterans suffering from mental illness, according to Jamie Van Leeuwen, head of Denver’s Road Home.

“Homeless veterans get very scared when there are lots of helicopters and lots of guns,” he said. “And there’s going to be a lot of that here.”

Unlike other Denver residents, the homeless won’t be able to escape the convention chaos. “If other people want a break, they can get in their car and leave,” he said. “These people don’t have that luxury.”

Alternatively, there will also be opportunities for the homeless to get involved in the convention activities. Several shelters plan on broadcasting parts of it live for curious patrons. And Iacino’s organization will be launching a voter registration drive.

And for those folks who just want in on the celebration, there will be bingo.

Van Leeuwen explains it this way: “We asked some of the homeless what they wanted during this time and they said, ‘If there’s a party, we want to be a part of the party. We want bingo.”

-- Kate Linthicum

Photo credit: City of Denver Convention Bureau

Comments () | Archives (6)

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And these people actually have the gall to say they are not hiding the homeless, just "housing" them? Completely ridiculous. I never knew the homeless just wanted to play Bingo. Sad, Sad, Sad.

Welcome to Denver-HOMELESS FREE.

what to expect? an event planned and organized like any other temporary invasion and occupation of that magnitude, complete with desired and scheduled outcome. undesired possible distractors to the staged big distraction will be carefully 'disappeared' and banned from the site. 'see, we care, we don't even shoot those deprived of their health and homes, or who might disagree, we even give them a lollipop and let them see the monkeys in the zoo, so they won't really be missing out on much.' so. they do it in china. and what reason to expect that the aspect will be treated any different in minneapolis-st. paul? will the 'r3volution' be televised after all? we'll see.

During prior conventions other cities have done the same.........hid their homeless.........its a darn shame

As an employee of one of Denver's many shelters, I have seen this first hand. It has me outraged. As of 9pm this evening, Denver Police are doing "sweeps" of the city streets. Any homeless found out on the streets will be arrested and taken to an old warehouse where cages have been set up. Yes, cages. No bedding, no facilities, just cages. They are treating them like animals. It is inhumane. Women and men with children will also be arrested if they cannot find a place to stay for the night. Our shelters are already overflowing. Basic necessities and food are limited. Add in 50,000+ people, hotel rooms going for $1,000+ per night, and the homeless are literally out of options and run out of the city to…. Where? Nearly every shelter and facility is already full and the convention hasn’t even begun. Where is our fair government now? Do you think any of the profit that will be made from this Convention will go to any of the nonprofits, churches, and shelters who are bearing the burden of our city’s poor planning and disregard of human life? No. Well, at least the hard working politicians and wealthy socialites will have a fun time at all the big parties this week! Meanwhile, all the shelter workers will be pulling 20 hour shifts (making minimum wage), scrambling to provide food, shelter, and hope to the forgotten. Not right.

What a great big stinking load of HOO HA!!

"We want BINGO?" PLEASE.

How stupid do they think people are?

And to suggest that the Vietnam veterans on the street, mentally ill or not, are like the animals on Wild Kingdom is just offensive.

I rather doubt that they are the majority of homeless in Denver, either.

I'm appalled at this snow job--it's like the Beijing Olympics, only it's here. Shame, Denver, Shame.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
President Obama
Republican Politics
Democratic Politics



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