UPDATE 4/30: The Denver City Council voted unanimously Monday night to approve relocating a tiny home village of formerly homeless people from the River North neighborhood to Globeville. The 13-0 vote came after a long and contentious public hearing on a resolution that would enable a nonprofit group to lease about 20,000 square-feet of vacant city-owned lot at 4400 Pearl Street for $10 per year with two additional one-year options.
POSTED 4/29: The fate of a dozen formerly homeless people will be in the hands of the Denver City Council on Monday night when it votes on whether to allow a tiny home village to move from the River North neighborhood to Globeville.
The Council is scheduled to vote after a public hearing on a resolution that would enable a nonprofit group to lease about 20,000 square-feet of vacant city-owned lot at 4400 Pearl Street for $10 per year with two additional one-year options.
The vote is the latest step in a nearly two-year-long effort to relocate the Beloved Community Village, which consists of a dozen 8-by-12-foot units currently located at 38th and Blake Street, just across from a light rail station.
It is a site that organizers of the village have until May 15 to vacate because the property owner has other plans for the parcel, said Cole Chandler, co-director of the Colorado Village Collaborative.
That puts the people currently living in the tiny homes in a tight spot, he said.
“If this vote is not passed, they will be homeless again,” Chandler said. “That’s the heart of the issue.”
The proposal called for relocating 11 homes from the River North site and later building another eight tiny homes plus a community building in Globeville.
The tiny homes – each of which costs about $15,000 to build – have baseboard heat but no running water. Residents share portable toilets and a shower facility.
Chandler said the village is an effort to create “transformational housing” aimed at getting once homeless people permanently off the streets. He said five of the original residents have moved on to permanent housing. Another two were asked to leave the self-governed village for not following the rules, he said.
The Globeville site – bordered on one side by the Burlington Northern railroad tracks and by Pearl and Washington streets on the others – is the latest in a series of locations for the village.
At one point the village was moved to the other side of lot of its current location to comply with a city permit.
An attempt to relocate to another River North site near the former Yellow Taxi Cab garage fell through at the last minute when the city’s Public Works Department raised concerns over the tiny houses being in a flood zone.
That spurred a Nov. 1 letter from advocates of the village to the city demanding some expedited action.
“The city should be an ally, ensuring that more homes were opened for this winter,” the letter stated. “Instead, they are currently the primary bottleneck to expanding tiny home villages for people experiencing homelessness.”
In January, organizers of the village announced plans to relocate to Globeville. But in a series of public meetings that followed, the project ran into stiff opposition from Globeville residents.
“We don’t want it,” said Dave Oletski, a candidate for City Council’s District 9, whose family has been in Globeville since 1870.
“They say it’s a good fit,” Oletski added. "We say it ain’t because for 100 years we’ve been trying to clean up this neighborhood and get it to a healthy, clean, safe environment. This is not going to create a safe environment.”
“It’s been our experience that everything negative, they bring to Globeville,” he said. “We’re tired. We’ve been fighting this for decades upon decades. They just never let up.”
To counter the push back from residents, advocates released a video addressing what they called the “myths and realities” of the village. Among them: that the homes are a low-impact alternative to a homeless shelter and that 11 of the 12 residents either work or attend school. The video also points out that the residents are not homeless and that the rules of the shelter forbid drug or alcohol use.
One resident said she was hurt by some of the comments directed at the residents during the earlier public hearings.
“I went to one meeting down at Globeville and I had to leave. It was really brutal,” said Luna Raine, one of the original residents of the village.
“There was a lot of intimidation involved,” she added. “I stormed off saying I’m not an animal and I’ve never hurt anyone.”
Raine said she is concerned about the kind of reception she and her neighbors will get if they move to Globeville.
“It’s very strange when you’re set to move someplace that has actively protested you being there,” she said. But she noted that some Globeville residents have been receptive to the villagers.
Raine, who works as a receptionist, said she’s also worried about the outcome of Monday’s vote.
“All of us have been traumatized by being homeless,” she said. “We’re all pretty scared about having to go back.”