Housing First! No More Deaths!
<code>Three Grand Junction Police Officers were placed on administrative leave on Friday May 7th under allegations of damaging homeless peoples’ property. The officers are under criminal investigation by the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department and under internal investigation at the PD.
On Monday May 3rd, GJ Police Officers were in the area of a well-established homeless camp near the confluence of the Gunnison and Colorado Rivers. Some residents were denied access to the area by the police during their visit. No known residents were in their camps at the time. Residents later returned to slashed tents, scattered belongings and slashed bike tires. On Wednesday, Jacob Richards, long time Red Pill editor and contributor and Housing First! No More Deaths! activist, filed a complaint about the incident. By Friday, three officers were placed on leave. The story was picked up by all local media outlets, the Denver Post, and even hit the AP wire.
The fact that the GJPD are conducting an internal investigation and the Sheriff’s Department is investigating the matter criminally indicates that the powers-that-be may actually be taking this seriously.
Criminalization and harassment of the homeless is nothing new to Grand Junction. Police officers and the law itself target the homeless. The City attempted to virtually illegalize flying a sign in the city in the summer of 2009 as an emergency ordinance, but was shut down by the power of the people. In July of 2009, two undercover GJ police officers were ousted from the organization Housing First! No More Deaths!. Panhandling within a median began became illegal in the fall of 2009, and overnight Colorado West Park became a median without any formal process.
As odd as it may seem, the system might actually bring some form of justice for the houseless, and some accountability to the GJPD.
Grassroots Homeless Organization to March for No More Deaths on the Streets of GJ
Local grassroots organization, Housing First! No More Deaths!, will be holding a March for No More Deaths on the Streets of Grand Junction on December 20th. The march will gather at 1pm at Whitman Park and march at 1:30pm to Hawthorn Park. At 3pm at Hawthorn Park the Grand Valley Coalition for the Homeless will be having their annual memorial for those who have died in our community without homes.
“We need to be both sad and angry,” said HF! NMD! organizer Mallory Rice. “That’s why were marching.”
With the economy sinking to new lows, a record number of foreclosures in the community, and a tightest job market in years homelessness is a problem that is not going away.
In 2008, sixteen people died houseless in Grand Junction. In 2007, eleven people died. Many died alone in the cold on the streets of downtown.
“Homelessness is an issue that is not going away. The city has tried to ignore and police away homelessness, and it hasn’t gotten any better. Its time the city becomes part of the solution not part of the problem,” said HF! NMD! organizer Jacob Richards.
Many who will be marching have lost friends and family to the streets of this city. Many are marching in their friend’s memory. Many facing full shelters and the cold streets are marching for their very lives.
“When is the city going to do something?” asked HF! NMD! member Towtruck.
“Cities that have become proactive about the issue of homelessness are seeing amazing results using housing first models,” said Richards. “The real solution for Grand Junction’s homeless problem is housing. We hope the city will soon step up to its responsibility.”
Members of Housing First! No More Deaths! were able to confirm that two undercover Grand Junction police officers had joined their organization. The two undercover officers participated in meetings, trainings, and had signed the membership list joining the organization. HF! NMD!
On Monday June 29th, the City of Grand Junction tried to pass two emergency ordinances outlawing "soliciting," also known as flying a sign or spanging. What stopped the city from moving forward with these laws was a strong, large, and loud group of homeless people and younger radicals.