Editor's Note – January 2015

By Sarah Harvey, Editor

You may notice we’ve given ourselves a little makeover for the New Year. Vendors loved the cover redesign last summer that gave us more space to feature a photo. We’ve kept the same basic design, but tweaked it a bit to give us more room to use photos on the front page. We’ve also reorganized the page you’re looking at now, giving a little more space for readers to get to know the 30 or so people who make it possible to put together this publication every month. A great deal of hope goes into these pages. I wanted to share a few of our hopes for the New Year with our readers (in the masthead to the right).

Nothing embodies hope more than the Homeless World Cup. The wire service we subscribe to recently offered a profile on one of the 2014 Homeless World Cup athletes, which we printed on page eight. If you need a dose of hope and happiness, you’ll find it in the uplifting photos that accompany the article.

In this issue we also examine another type of hope permeating the air around Denver: the hope of the business owners and next-generation pioneers of the city’s burgeoning retail marijuana industry. It’s a hope tinged with the apprehension of some Colorado residents (and with a substance that’s still illegal in most states). That story starts on page six.

Many homeless services organizations are hesitant to talk about a possible connection between marijuana and an increase in homelessness. They don’t want pot to distract from the good they are doing, or the need. The law may be relatively new, but substance abuse issues aren’t new—and they aren’t the whole story when it comes to homelessness. 

Some homeless services organizations reported last year that roughly one third of the new people they served stated that marijuana was their reason for coming to Denver. That means two thirds of this new population listed another reason. And while it’s certainly possible that some of the people making up those two thirds weren’t completely frank, it’s also just as likely that they came to Denver for expanded healthcare, or construction jobs, or a host of other reasons.

The VOICE doesn’t ask new vendors if they came to Denver for pot. It isn’t necessarily information we need to know. At the end of the day, we’re going to help someone who needs a job regardless of the reason they show up at our door. If you’d like to read a vendor’s perspective on pot in Denver, turn to page seven.

On a more solemn note, each year the city of Denver hosts a memorial service to honor those who died on the streets. Two longtime VOICE vendors passed away last year; their names were read aloud at the candlelight vigil in front of the City and County building last month. Both deaths were tragic, but very different circumstances. Manuela Shaw had overcome alcoholism and found housing only to succumb to cancer. Eric “Fuzzy” Johnson never won his battle with addiction; he overdosed last November. We honor these two former vendors and all the others who passed away on the streets last year on pages 10 and 11.

At the VOICE we help those recovering and those still struggling. It’s not for us to judge. We are the place for second chances—and third, fourth, and even seventeenth chances, if it comes to that. We are a place for hope. ■