Restoring People and Buildings

The Front Range of Colorado (the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains) is a good place to be if you’re green.

I was just reading the August edition of the Denver Voice (the monthly newspaper sold by homeless people in the Denver Metro area) and found two initiatives worth mentioning on this blog. One involves restoration of the built environment, and the other involves helping the homeless.

Retrofitting Buildings as They Stand

Living City Block, founded by Llewelyn Wells, aims to take the Lower Downtown Denver block bounded by 15th, Wynkoop, 16th, and Blake and “retrofit this block, so that by 2014 the buildings and businesses on the block will be creating their own energy with no waste, and two years later will be creating more energy than they use.” The businesses on this block include Dixon’s restaurant and the Tattered Cover.

Wells has talked to business owners on the block, and they are cautiously interested. But LCB has yet to secure adequate funding for the entire project, although assessments of the buildings for energy efficiency are being conducted by Xcel and Green Building Services of Portland.

How Is This Restoration?

If we can manage to make old buildings more energy-efficient in a way that pays for itself, many businesses will be interested. The article claims that these retrofitted buildings will eventually add electricity to the grid.

Why can’t businesses do this on their own? Because it requires a large investment up front. Some cities in the country have been getting around this hurdle with residential properties by having homeowners make retrofits and then pay a monthly fee on their utility bill. I don’t know if that approach has been used with businesses. I would think the investments needed to make a business “energy-self-sufficient” would generally be greater than the investments needed to retrofit a home. Also, I think most of the residential customers are reducing their energy use, not going off the grid.

Go read the article: it has rich detail about how this project does not require business owners to “suffer” in order to be sustainable.

Source: “Living City Block,” Kristin Pazulski, Denver Voice, August 2010

Asking the Homeless What They Want

According to the Denver Voice, Colorado Springs is more progressive regarding the homeless than Boulder. Shocked, you say?

Colorado Springs and Boulder passed the same kind of law regarding sleeping in public, a law criminalizing camping in a city. But Colorado Springs suspended the law in 2009 after it was told that the law might be unconstitutional if the city didn’t provide enough shelter beds for people who need them. Apparently, Boulder and Colorado Springs have about the same number of homeless (600 or so) despite the fact that Colorado Springs is five times as big as Boulder.

What happened next south of Denver is so sensible I can hardly believe it. The police chief of the Springs formed a team of officers and instructed them to ask the homeless what they needed. This evolved into locating motels with empty rooms and getting grant funding to pay for those rooms so a few dozen homeless people could live in them, which was coordinated through Homeward Pikes Peak.

I couldn’t find this short article on the Denver Voice website, but I suggest you go to the Homeless Pikes Peak website and read the Urgent Appeal for funding for a case manager to help people get housing vouchers that HPP already knows are available. It’s all about how this kind of program saves taxpayers money. I didn’t realize that when I call the police about some person passed out on the street, it costs $2,000 for that person to be taken to the emergency room and dried out.

Source: “Tale of Two Cities,” Tom Demers, Denver Voice, August 2010

How Is This Restoration?

It’s restoration of people to some semblance of a normal life. They might even pay taxes at some point instead of costing the taxpayer money. How that will lead directly to restoration of the environment, I have no idea.

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2 Responses to Restoring People and Buildings

  1. dana says:

    thanks for pointing out the story about the homeless. i felt the boulder decision about sleeping in public was extremely distressing. the homeless issue is such a big one with so many layers – mental health, addiction, physical health, education, etc. we have a really long way to go toward solving it. i am not sure that i agree with the idea of motels, though.

  2. Beth Partin says:

    Dana, I agree that the Boulder decision was bad. I don’t think banning people from sleeping or panhandling is the way to go, though I do think aggressive panhandlers should be kept in check. The motels were an interim solution, just to get people into better housing than tents. I just loved the idea that someone actually asked the homeless what they wanted! It’s so simple and so often overlooked.

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