What will we ‘do better’ after the failure of I-300?

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Thank you to Denver voters for re-electing me. In July I’ll accept the challenges and powers that come with a final term of official leadership, during a time of great prosperity and inequality.

Further down the ballot was Initiative 300, the “Right to Survive.” The super-majority opposed to camping on public property became evident months before ballots were counted. During my re-election campaign, many asked my position, stating their vote depended on where candidates stood. In response, I shared a detailed essay expressing my frustration with both campaigns’ lack of discussion on the many proven pathways out of homelessness, and described a detailed plan to implement more of those pathways.

Some voters appreciated the nuance, others wished I just said “vote no.” More than 80 percent said no. Now, what does it mean to “do better” and who is responsible for doing it?

Clearly, I and other electeds must do better. See the list below. But for every voter, what will each of us do better? What new ideas or changes will residents be open to? What additional investments will we support with our private or public dollars? Or, will the post-300 world return to status quo with the opposition slogan long forgotten?

Below are initiatives being led by the city or my council office. We look forward to community support for these initiatives or new community-led ideas to expand pathways out of homelessness.

• “Supportive Housing” moves households out of alleys and parks and into apartments with key, non-threatening services and no time limit. This model is more than 85 percent successful, and Denver’s Housing Fund has $50 million to buy land to build more. For more information on Supportive Housing, go to https://bit.ly/1PV4q8s.

• My office has convened a stakeholder group of neighborhood leaders — folks who have lived in homelessness, service providers and funders to develop a “Neighborhood Engagement Guide.” The guide will help conversations around new Supportive Housing happen earlier, in more meaningful ways for neighbors, with guidance on how to have a civil conversation and on how providers can build strong community relationships. How will communities welcome these new homes and neighbors?

• We can’t build housing fast enough to meet the full demand, so shelter is life-saving, though not often enough life-changing. The mayor committed more than $10 million to expand day services to help folks in shelters access housing and $5 million for 400 vouchers to help folks access existing apartments.

• We need expanded funding for the services to accompany these strategies. Are taxpayers ready to invest more to implement proven, best-practices?

• I-300 existed because too many live in a gap between shelter and housing. We must have a saner, safer and more sanitary system of interim housing where folks in the gap have access to bathrooms, water and trash services rather than being forced to camp illicitly, impacting both their own quality of life and the community’s. Tiny homes are one solution. This summer I’m sponsoring ordinances to expand the potential for them. A public meeting will be held on June 5. The meeting will be at Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 2015 Glenarm Place, at 6 p.m. For more information on the meeting, go to https://bit.ly/2LJOY2T.

We look forward to hearing how you will #CommitToDoBetter for those experiencing homelessness post-300. We all must lead if we’re really going to expand pathways out of homelessness. Please write, call or share ideas via social media. www.denvergov.org/RobinKniech.

Robin Kniech is a councilmember at-large on the Denver City Council. At-large council members represent the city as a whole. She can be reached at kniechatlarge@denvergov.org. 

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