Two years ago this month, Pot became legal in Denver Colorado. Since that time, the city has enjoyed the benefits of increased tax revenues along with a mini population boom. But they have also encountered an unforeseen, at least by liberals, side effect.
The City is currently trying to come to grips with a growing homeless problem, and despite a lack of firm evidence, many are blaming it on the legalization of marijuana. They say that act not only brought in new funding, but also attracted a growing number of drug users now living on the street.
According the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Colorado’s homeless population jumped 13 percent from 2015 to 2016, despite the fact that nationally, homelessness declined by 3 percent during the same time period. The state’s booming economy has brought in people from all over the country. So many, that home and apartment construction has not kept pace, meaning even some people with jobs find themselves living on the streets of cities like Denver.
“As our unemployment rate continues to decline,” explains Denver’s homeless czar Erik Solivan, “we have a number of service workers, folks working at construction sites, working at our ballparks, and our service industry, who cannot afford the rent.” Solivan says three quarters of the city’s homeless work.
But rather than being sympathetic, complaints from downtown businesses caused the city to instituted an urban camping ban to keep people from spending the night on city sidewalks, in parks and other public spaces. Last year, the city began a series of sweeps to enforce the camping ban, gathering up tents, sleeping bags and other belongings from homeless people to put into storage. That action drew national criticism from other liberals.
“They took all my stuff,” complains Charlie Berry, who says he’s been homeless for several years because of a double hernia operation that didn’t work. “All my clothes and all my bedding and everything, and (they) threw it in the trash and hauled it away like it was nothing.”
The action also resulted in a federal class-action lawsuit against the city on behalf of the homeless. Lawyers for the homeless say Denver’s actions violated people’s constitutional right to due process. “If somebody’s there, they get a receipt for their property. If nobody’s there, their property is simply taken and essentially their home has been removed from them.”
Many say some of the homeless have come to Colorado for legalized marijuana. One resident said, “Basically, all they want to do is just come here and smoke pot. When you legalize marijuana you open the door to a whole new level of hell.”
Since Denver started the crackdown, homeowners and businesses on the outskirts say the problem has just moved outward. “I’ve definitely seen a real high increase of homeless throughout this certain area right here,” says Kyle Hollingsworth. “It definitely does affect the business. There’ll be people hanging out here, they might be doing drugs, they might be drinking, they might be being loud and obnoxious. It definitely scares a lot of the people away.”