Feature: Falling to Heaven

Published April 2010 Vol. 14 Issue 4

by William Hillyard

photo by Preston Drake-Hillyard

In this THIRD installation of his series on Wonder Valley, William Hillyard explores two men’s lives as they intersect in the arid isolation of the Mojave Desert.

Night in Wonder Valley is vast and limitless; out there, no lights distract the stars. Looking up, you see infinity. The heavens shroud the earth with the dust of the Milky Way, the ancient pulse of countless stars in that eternity of darkness. Out there, the sky appears torn from the earth along the jagged silhouette of the mountains—those mountains, along with the dilapidated homestead shacks and the empty sand and scrub of the Wonder Valley floor, sink into a featureless black void. Late, in the calm of the deep night, you can find yourself out there in an ear-crackling silence, in a darkness without form. All you are is your breath rasping in your chest, your heart lub-dubbing in your ears. Life, the entirety of your existence, collapses to a mere spark, the briefest blush of daylight in an endless night.

Out there, with the cosmic canopy hanging heavy above, Tom Whitefeather sits in an old rocking chair staring out the open door of Raub McCartney’s rock-walled cabin into the night. Raub’s dusty, half-drunk jug of wine sits at his feet. The rock-walled cabin sits anchored to the flank of an island, a scab of weathered boulders, part of that inky nighttime silhouette rising from the barren basin of the valley. Whitefeather will make his bed on Raub’s antique settee behind the old rocking chair, wrapped in a blanket against the cold darkness of the rock-walled room. He never goes into Raub’s room; it sits just the way they left it, with the boxes overturned, the bed covered with clothes and photos. They left it with the closet door sprung open, the contents spilling out onto the floor. They left it with the box fan on the floor and the bullet hole in the wall.

Tom Whitefeather stands outside Raub Mc Cartney’s rock walled cabin in the mojave desert.

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Profile: Falling through the cracks

Published April 2010 Vol. 14 Issue 4

by Tom deMers

For most people public housing is an unexpected bend in the road that leads to a place they never anticipated, perhaps never knew existed. The gratitude they feel for such a place can be huge.

It might be the gradual onset of diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), or severe depression that brings them to Pineview, a public housing facility in Boulder.*  All these are severely debilitating and require continuous medical supervision and drug therapy over an extended period. Or it might be an economic downturn with high unemployment, failing banks and foreclosures.

Or the problem might literally occur overnight.

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Feature: Crime or Punishment?

Published April 2010 Vol. 14 Issue 4

by Margo Pierce, with contributions from Kimberly Gunning and Ross Evertson

photos by Adrian Diubaldo

Economic profiling treats homeless people as criminals.

In 2007, approximately 3.6 million people were homeless at some time in North America, according to a number of non-profit organizations. “Homelessness” is defined in a variety of ways, so it is impossible to paint a uniform picture of what this reality looks like, but the numbers show that homelessness has reached epidemic proportions. And looking around the country, for many communities a popular response is punishment.

 A man holds up a ticket in Denver for camping ilegaly . The ticket had no fine, but required him to go to Homeles Court.

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News Briefs: Visit the Aurora Campus Sustainability Fair April 15

Published April 2010 Vol. 14 Issue 4

The Denver VOICE will be participating in the Aurora Campus Sustainability Fair, which will be held April 15, from 10:00 A.M. until 4:00 P.M. Come out to see “Homelessman” cartoonist Bill Policy drawing live caricatures, along with our vendors who will be selling original artwork and the April issue of the VOICE. There will be live entertainment from campus bands and artwork by students, along with organizations that will be talking about the benefits of sustainable living.  It will also include green jobs, an electric car and a raffle. Best of all, the entrance is free! Come join local students and the Denver VOICE at the Sustainability Fair on April 15. 

News Briefs: Colorado Springs enforces no-camping ordinance

Published April 2010 Vol. 14 Issue 4

Colorado Springs Police began enforcing a new, citywide no-camp ordinance on March 11.

The Homeless Outreach Team from the police department is reportedly moving slowly through various areas starting with a camp north of Cimarron Street and west of Interstate 25.

No arrests were made on day one according to The Gazette in Colorado Springs. Police issued several warnings and recommended various shelters in the area such as the Springs Rescue Mission and the Salvation Army.

Police are notifying the campers who they issue warnings to that if they are still there in 48 hours they will receive a ticket. On the third day, they will be arrested.

Council members passed the city’s no-camp ordinance 8-1, on Feb. 9.

-- Kimberly Gunning

News Briefs: CSU students participate in Alternative Break program

Published April 2010 Vol. 14 Issue 4

Students from Colorado State University in Fort Collins participated in the university’s Alternative Break program in various locations around the country during spring break last month.

More than 150 students participated in the 13 volunteer service projects that they helped create.

Volunteer vacations are growing in popularity in many parts of the world. Especially now in the U.S., when many travelers don’t have the funds to travel luxuriously, people are turning to volunteer vacations as a less expensive way to see the world.

Although most people associate volunteer vacations with opportunities over seas, usually in a third-world country, there are many prospects right in our own backyard.

This year’s projects included: rebuilding homes in the St. Bernard Parish of New Orleans with the United Way; Give Kids the World in Kissimmee, Fla., an organization helping to make the wishes come true for children with life-threatening illnesses; working emergency water stations with Humane Borders at the Arizona-Mexico border; and volunteering at one of the nation’s largest homeless shelters with Community for Creative Non-Violence in Washington, D.C.

More than 55 million Americans have participated in a volunteer based vacation as of 2009, according to the Travel Associations of America.

-- Kimberly Gunning

News Briefs: Colorado Public Schools $18 billion renovation needs

Published April 2010 Vol. 14 Issue 4

Colorado Public Schools need close to $18 billion in renovations, maintenance repairs and energy upgrades according to statewide study released in March.

The Public School Capital Construction Assistance Board conducted a facility test of all 8,419 Colorado kindergarten though 12th-grade buildings.

Evaluators concluded that the buildings are in need of $9.4 billion for deferred maintenance work by 2013. Additionally, $13.9 billion is needed to renovate classrooms in order to meet 21st-century codes and for energy projects and repairs. The remaining $3.9 billion is estimated for further repairs between 2014 and 2018.

This was the first statewide evaluation of school building conditions, according to Capital Construction Assistance Division Director Ted Hughes.

The multi-billion-dollar evaluation coincides with the 8.7 percent budget cuts  to Colorado public schools. 

2008 Building Excellent Schools Today, a program that school districts have the option to apply to, required the study.

BEST assists districts in setting priorities and encouraging the use of local, matching grants for these projects. Top priorities include health and safety issues followed by overcrowding relief and technology projects.

Two Alamosa elementary schools, a high school in Sargent and schools in the Sangre de Cristo district received $87 million for projects last August. 

The next phase is expected to amount to $147 million for school construction needs.

-- Kimberly Gunning