Triple homicide in Denver prompts homeless advocates to remind everyone there’s still a need for more safe spaces, resources

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Denver Police are investigating a triple homicide close to Broadway at Ohio Avenue, Aug. 9, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Advocates for people experiencing homelessness are still grappling with last week's triple homicide involving victims who police believe were homeless, and they say it's a reminder that the city needs more resources for those experiencing homelessness.

Denver’s Office of the Medical Examiner on Monday said the three homicide victims found last week near South Broadway died of gunshot wounds. The office identified the three victims as Nicole “Nikki” Boston, 28, Christopher “Little Cowboy” Zamudio, 45, and Jerome “Rome” Coronado, 39. The manner of death is listed as homicide.

The department said in an email earlier this week that there wasn't any information available on a suspect related to the ongoing investigation. They also said a stabbing investigated earlier in the day before the bodies were found was not connected to the homicides, as had been initially investigated.

Tom Luehrs, executive director at the nonprofit homeless services organization Saint Francis Center, on Monday said safety is always an issue for people experiencing homelessness.

“I think, when people are on the streets, it’s really difficult to find, to be assured that they’re going to be safe,” Luehrs said. “But this is an unusual situation. We just found out that one of the gentlemen — at least one of them — we know for sure is somebody we worked with out on the streets.”

The sad irony was that usually, three people together “tends to be a safer situation,” Luehrs said, “but in this case, it wasn’t.”

“We need to do better,” Luehrs said. “(The city needs) safe places for people who are going to be outside, at least safe spaces where people can feel like when they’re outside, they will be in a place where they won’t be threatened by anyone.”

The last point-in-time survey suggested the number of people in Denver living in the streets in the city is at an all-time high, Luehrs added.

CPR reported in June the count among seven Metro-area counties showed the number of chronically homeless rose by 500 between 2017 and 2018.

“It shouldn’t be a crime and they shouldn’t be accosted because they’re not going into shelters,” Luehrs said. “People stay outside because they find that’s better for their life at this point.”

A pile of someone's belongings across from the Crossroads homeless shelter, June 14, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Cathy Alderman, a spokesperson for the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, said that like many others in the community, they were still dealing with the “shock” of the incident. She said they will continue doing outreach and connecting people with services.

She said there will be a lot of community members in need of additional support. The homicides just add “another, heighten level of insecurity to the already traumatic experience of being homeless,” Alderman said.

“People are likely going to be feeling more afraid for their safety,” Alderman said. “We know that crimes are committed against people experiencing homelessness at a far higher rate than crimes being committed by people experiencing homelessness.”

Those in need of supportive services can visit the Coalition's Stout Street Health Center at 2130 Stout Street in Denver. She encourages people to donate to organizations helping the homeless but adds that what took place should prompt a larger call for action encouraging residents to ask the city to be more helpful.

This would include asking the city provide spaces instead of “engaging in enforcement activity that potentially moves people into unsafe spaces,” Alderman added.

“I think it also highlights the need for a greater call of action to the city, to make sure that we have enough safe spaces to be in,” Alderman said.

Know anything about the crime?

Denver Police are asking anyone with information related to the crime can call the Denver Police Department at 720-913-2000  or Crime Stoppers at 720-913-STOP. The tip line is available 24/7 and callers can remain anonymous.

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