Our feature story this month, “Searching for Home” (page 7), gives readers a sneak peek into a fascinating new exhibit opening Nov. 7 at the History Colorado Center. This exhibit educates museumgoers about the history of homelessness in Colorado, and also exposes them to the day-to-day challenges of homelessness (like trying to make a healthy meal with just a few dollars and a microwave).
All of the images in “Searching for Home” came to us through the History Colorado Center. These images show the many faces of homelessness throughout Colorado history, from the Leadville miners who slept under bars and in ditches to the former beauty queen who stored her pageant crown in a trash bag when she suddenly found herself homeless. Some of the exhibit will be familiar to Denverites. If you grew up in Colorado, you’ve likely heard the story of Baby Doe Tabor—but I bet you haven’t heard the one about the unemployed miners who overwhelmed the city of Denver after the silver crash of 1893. In an attempt to get the miners out of town, city officials gave them lumber, hoping that they would build their own boats and float away down the Platte.
If that sounds ridiculous, imagine how someone from another time might react to the idea of issuing someone a citation for sleeping outside when that person has no other option. Laws against sleeping outside and begging are often adopted when city governments aren’t equipped to deal with the underlying causes of homelessness. You’ll find stories in this issue about the criminalization of homelessness in the U.S., and what might be early signs that this trend is reversing. The turning of the tide is thanks to recent statements from the Department of Justice and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Check the stories out on pages 5 and 6.
The Denver VOICE is also part of the complicated narrative of homelessness in Colorado. This month, I’m thankful for all of the people who come together to make the Denver VOICE possible. The VOICE only has two part-time employees, but we’re supported by an amazing group of volunteers, board members, journalists, photographers, and donors. With them, we’re able to empower an average of 50 vendors every month. ■