Here’s why you’re seeing more people camped outside the Denver Art Museum

John Cavazos (right) hangs out under a tree by the Denver Public Library, Sept. 26, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

John Cavazos (right) hangs out under a tree by the Denver Public Library, Sept. 26, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Donna Bryson. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

A Denverite reader wanted to know, “Why are a bunch of homeless people congregating on the lawn between the library and the art museum?”

In search of an answer Wednesday, I made my way through a throng of schoolchildren to the narrow grassy area along 14th Avenue Parkway beneath Beverly Pepper’s great, gray Denver Monoliths statues. I found a dozen people there at midday, though from a distance the piles of bikes, bags and blankets made the group seem bigger. I saw very little litter.

John Cavazos, a Denver resident of 18 years, told me he’s been on the streets of Denver for three years and had come to the art museum after Taste of Colorado forced him out of Civic Center Park.

He’s still there weeks after the festival because “my friends are here,” he said.

Among his friends is Sarah Mina, who said she’d been coming to the area every day in the year since she came to Denver from Tucson.

“I came out with a dude,” she said. “It was supposed to be on a tour with a band. I got stuck here.”

So, no surprises. In a city with an affordable housing crisis, shelters are crowded and most aren’t open during the day. People experiencing homelessness may feel they have to move along, and they seek respite and companionship.

Well, maybe one surprise. Scant evidence supports a theory I often hear that marijuana legalization has brought more homeless people to Colorado. Cavazos had a personal twist on that. He said he’d been growing marijuana for medical patients until recreational weed put him out of business and on the streets.