Denver's Ironic Treatment of Homelessness During the DNC

August 25 2008, 7:20 AM

Denver has taken the city's homeless under its wing during the Democratic National Convention. Enacting the same policies it uses during a severe cold spell hits the city, Denver has opened an emergency housing shelter and required that all other shelters stay open 24 hours a day. The city argues that this provides a safe haven to the homeless, whose usual hangouts--near the Pepsi Center and downtown--are overrun with convention-goers this week. Such a consideration is only fair for a city with a 10-year strategy to provide its homeless more supported living situations. But there is some irony in the city's decision. Denver has taken a measure that will probably decrease the visibility of homelessness at the same time it has made the issue a citywide cultural conversation. Two of the dozen or so events that Denver hosts in Dialog:City, its DNC-related cultural series, broach homelessness through artistic expression. Acclaimed Polish video artist Krzysztof Wodiczko worked with more than 40 Denver homeless veterans to give voice to their experiences in his DNC multimedia show, The Veteran Project. Similarly in City Park on Wednesday evening, the culture house Platteforum presents Throwaway Runway, its play about teenage homeless written by at-risk youth.

So, while the The Veteran Project and Throwaway Runaway increase awareness and empathy for Denver's homeless, the city has arranged for them to be out of sight. This leaves Denver hoping that its artistic messages are so strong and authentic that when Denverites meet the homeless post-convention, they remember to connect them back to the voices and stories they heard during the DNC. • The Veteran Project; Mon-Tue dusk; 13th and Grant streets; www.dialogcity.org • Throwaway Runway; Wed 6 p.m.; Minsuk Cho's Pavilion in City Park, Colorado and Montview boulevards; www.dialogcity.org