May 11, 2017

Denver Forum: Making Colorado a Place of Opportunity | Part I

Matthew Desmond in his keynote at Enterprise's Denver Forum for the First

“Eviction is a cause of poverty, and not simply as a condition,” said Matthew Desmond, Harvard sociologist, MacArthur Genius and recently anointed Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the best-selling book Evicted.

Desmond just wrote in the New York Times about homeownership as the engine of inequality, saying "...we continue to give the most help to those who least need it – affluent homeowners – while providing nothing to most rent-burdened tenants.

As keynote speaker at our Denver Forum for the First, Matthew underscored why all people need a stable affordable home – because, without it “everything else falls apart.”

When families are evicted and need to find affordable shelter immediately, they are often forced into substandard homes, in communities with limited opportunities. And in communities like the Denver metro, where affordable housing is in short supply, the concentration of poverty happens much more rapidly and more viciously. Desmond also underscored that the impacts of eviction are disproportionately borne by women, who often become the primary caretakers of home and family.

Luz Galicia, president of Denver Meadows Vecinos Unidos Homeowners Association, and Denver Forum speaker, knows this fate all too well: Following a rezoning of an area that included her mobile home park in Aurora, Colorado, Luz and her neighbors were told that they had two weeks to vacate. But due to successful organizing, with the assistance of 9to5 Colorado, the clearance was halted – though only temporarily.

Luz counts herself lucky – she has a good paying job and has been able to support her daughters to pursue college degrees. But she could not imagine how her neighbors, many of whom earn minimum wage and are single mothers, are able to make ends meet.

Luz is organizing her community to take ownership of the mobile home park. She encouraged Forum attendees to similarly investigate and challenge displacement practices, and to propose solutions that promote community and individual stability. She cheered community leaders to take risks and create new models.

And if you need proof that innovation can happen, she says, “Come and visit with me in my mobile home. That way you can see what it’s like.”

Following Luz’s remarks, leaders from the Denver Metro Fair Housing Center, Children’s Hospital Colorado, Denver Public Schools, Colorado Affordable Legal Services, We Organize Westminster and Mile High Connects discussed the impact of housing insecurity on workers, families and children. Find how what they had to say about policy solutions in their communities in part two of this Forum recap.

Enterprise and Make Room Colorado, in concert with our partners: the City & County of Denver, Mile High Connects, 9to5 Colorado, FRESC and the Urban Land Conservancy, organized The Denver Forum for the First in February at the Denver Art Museum. The forum brought together leaders from around the region to share their perspectives and to propose ways of working together to address the Colorado housing crisis. Tina Griego, managing editor of The Colorado Independent, provoked thoughtful discussion as moderator, both among the panelists and the more than 200 people in attendance.

Enterprise and Make Room are incredibly grateful to all those who have helped to create the inaugural Denver Forum for the First. We would also like to thank our event sponsors, who have shown steadfast commitment towards reducing housing insecurity and supporting prosperous communities in the Denver metro region:

Alden Torch
Capital One
Colorado Housing and Finance Authority
The Colorado Trust
Gary Community Investments
Gorman & Company
Hunt Companies
Wells Fargo