A new Globeville group emerges to fight tiny homes

A banner a new Globeville group put up across the street from the site the city has proposed as the new home for tiny homes for the homeless. March 28, 2019. (Donna Bryson/Denverite)

A banner a new Globeville group put up across the street from the site the city has proposed as the new home for tiny homes for the homeless. March 28, 2019. (Donna Bryson/Denverite)

Donna Bryson. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

A group of Globeville residents are forming a new organization to fight a proposal to move tiny homes for the homeless to a vacant lot in their neighborhood.

Globeville First announced itself this week with a banner declaring: “No tiny home village in Globeville.” The sign in red and black lettering hangs on a fence across the street from the lot at 4400 North Pearl where the city has proposed locating Beloved Community Village, a shelter alternative composed of 11 small structures.

City officials “think it’s going to come here. But we are determined not to let it,” said Rolanda Barnes, who responded to an email sent to an address on the banner. She identified herself as a spokeswoman for Globeville First and a resident of Globeville for the past decade.

Barnes said she has attended the three tense public meetings held since January, when the city announced it was offering 4400 North Pearl to the Colorado Village Collaborative, the nonprofit that sponsors Beloved Community Village. While some residents have said they would welcome the village, Barnes’s comments Thursday echoed those of many at the meetings who have expressed skepticism that the tiny home model effectively addresses homelessness; fear that its residents might endanger their neighborhood; and anger that their long-neglected corner of the city was being asked to solve a crisis it did not create.

The village has been located for more than a year near the 38th and Blake light-rail station on a plot slated for the development of affordable housing. It had been planning to move to a site it was offered at the Taxi development, but Denver’s public works department said in November that plot was inappropriate, citing flood concerns. That set off a hurried search for a new site, though the sense of urgency was eased Feb. 28 when a city appeals board granted the village a 180-day extension of its permit to occupy the 38th and Blake site.

The Burnes Center on Poverty and Homelessness at the University of Denver studied the village at 38th and Blake and praised the impact it had on the employment prospects and health of its residents.

Colorado Village Collaborative took note of the “No tiny home village in Globeville” banner, posting a statement on its Facebook page describing the message as representative of “the kind of divisive rhetoric that has become normative of our local and national conversation.”

The nonprofit also said it has been visiting homes in Globeville to speak to residents about what steps could be taken to persuade them to welcome the village.

“These discussions don’t leave us with a lot of answers,” the collaborative acknowledged. “But they do open up several important questions. How can we move from the difficult place of deep generational oppression to one of healing? How can we draw near to one another and heal the divides of a deeply broken social order? How can we find the courage to stand shoulder to shoulder as neighbors?”

The door-to-door interactions are a chance for neighbors to have their say away from the public meetings, said Michael Sapp, Denver’s director of neighborhood relations.

“We’re still in listening, education, awareness” mode, Sapp said, adding that some Globeville residents have been supportive of the tiny village when they learn more about it.

“There’s still folks who have not even heard about the proposed project,” he said.

Cole Chandler, co-director of Colorado Village Collaborative, said in an email to Denverite on Thursday that he had nothing immediately to add to the Facebook post, but hoped to have developments to announce in the coming weeks.

Denver City Council must approve the proposal to lease the city-owned plot at 4400 North Pearl to Colorado Village Collaborative for about $10 a year. The council’s Finance and Governance Committee has given preliminary approval. A full council vote initially set for Feb. 19 has been indefinitely postponed. The neighborhood opposition has led city officials to consider other, so far unspecified sites. They also have said 4400 North Pearl is not off the table.

Globeville is a neighborhood both united and divided by multiple neighborhood groups.

Globeville First’s Barnes said her group will present to City Council signatures of Globeville residents opposed to hosting Beloved Community Village. She said her group had three leaders and an email list of about 90. She described it as a “future RNO,” or registered neighborhood organization, whose name reflected its priorities:

“What we need is somebody who thinks of Globeville first,” she said. “Like ‘America First,” though I’m not a Trump person.”

Denver’s Community Planning and Development department already has three Globeville groups on its RNO list — Globeville Civic Association No. 2, Globeville Civic Partners and Globeville K.A.R.E.S.  RNOs are formed by neighbors and receive notification of proposed city actions such as amending zoning rules so that they can weigh in on decisions affecting their areas.

John Modig, who owns the Globeville print shop where Globeville First had its banner made, said outsiders should not see the neighborhood as lacking compassion.

“It’s a great little community. People are as nice as people can be,” he said. “But they feel like they’ve been dumped on many times,” he said.

Modig said he was a member of an older neighborhood group, Globeville K.A.R.E.S. He did not see Globeville First as a rival. Instead, he said the village issue had united the neighborhood.

“It’s gotten people all lined up to say, ‘We really have had enough.”

Thursday morning, Edna Dimas, who lives a block away, walked her two dogs past the empty lot at 4400 North Pearl and the banner across the street.  She said she had heard last year of plans by Colorado Village Collaborative to start a second tiny home project for women experiencing homelessness. That project has been on hold since the city’s Landmark Preservation Commission said it couldn’t be located in the parking lot of the St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church campus because the site was in a historic district.

Dimas said she would be sympathetic to women experiencing homelessness, but was concerned about Beloved Community Village, home to men and women.

“This is a pretty peaceful neighborhood,” she said. “It would be great if we keep it that way.”

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