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For many, driving through the intersection of 22nd and Stout in North Denver is part of their daily commute. For others it’s where they spend most of their nights. The intersection is cluttered with tents, tarps and trash that are scattered along numerous blocks.  There are small homeless communities along a bridge on North Broadway and back down past Saint Joseph Hospital all the way to City Park. Other makeshift shelters are strung to trees in Lawson or Benedict Fountain Park. Some simply lay barely off the street on an all too skinny sidewalks. These are the campsites where some of Denver’s homeless population live. 

Homelessness in Denver is more visible than ever but for the actual homeless population, it feels just the opposite.  Cathy Alderman, The Chief Communications and Public Policy Officer for the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, says that people in the homeless community often feel invisible. “We often treat people experiencing homelessness as invisible because we don’t want to see that experience… Imagine living in a world where you felt invisible,” said Cathy. 

Antonio, a homeless man in North Denver experiences this daily. “Some people when they see me, when I am working on the side of the street they go to the other side. I don’t know what I can do, live the life, the life I have now and pray to God too.”  Antonio is among those that are newly homeless because of COVID. After losing his job due to the pandemic he was no longer able to afford his apartment.   

COVID has been the tipping point for individuals like Antonio. In a 2020 point in time study conducted by The Metro Denver Homeless Initiative, the number of homeless in the City and County of Denver has grown from 3,445 to 4,171. 

If homeless people aren’t invisible to the general public, they are often perceived as criminals, says Antonio.  “They see me like I’m gonna do something bad… they see people homeless like they were gonna do something or steal something, but I’m not doing this,” said Antonio. “In the world if you are homeless or no you will be around good and bad people anywhere,” he finished.”  Cathy Alderman agrees. “Assuming someone is a criminal because they are experiencing homelessness is a dangerous assumption and it leads to the dehumanization of individuals.”. 

 “There are people who are engaged in criminal activity from all walks of life, some of these people happen to be experiencing homelessness, some are living in apartments or condos, and many of those people are living in homes,” said Cathy.  Cathy dates this perception back hundreds of years when people started referring to the homeless as hobos. “There was an image developed over time of who was likely to experience homelessness and it was someone who had chosen that path,” she said. 

Cathy says that homelessness is a false choice.  “Many people enter that cycle of homelessness because of a traumatic event.” For Antonio, a global pandemic is what set that in motion.  Before the pandemic Antonio was getting by just fine.  “I had an apartment before, I had a wife before. Then COVID started, I lost my job, I couldn’t afford my place, food, everything was gone,” said Antonio. 

The city of Denver and non-profits are constantly struggling to create solutions to help the homeless. Converting shelters to 24/7 facilities so that people can go there and get a shower, a meal, and to secure a bed for the night is one approach. Tiny homes and designated camping areas at churches are another.  But  Antonio says it’s not enough. “It’s hard to find restrooms because the one I know is on the other side and its far, like 20 minutes.  I have to walk and keep running for the restroom.  It’s tough to find shower places, it’s very hard.” 

A Colorado Nonprofit called Showers for All, is doing their best to help provide facilities to the homeless all over Denver. Showers for All is a moving trailer that provides free showers, bathrooms, and laundry services to the homeless. They believe that all people, no matter their circumstances, should have access to basic necessities. Showers and clean clothes not only give people better personal hygiene but a sense of being valued. 

Cathy commends what the city and non-profits are doing but she recognizes there is a long way to go.  “That’s a step in the right direction,” she said. “But ultimately it’s about getting folks into long-term stable options.  At the end of the day everybody needs a safe place to be. Everybody craves stability and the only way you can achieve economic mobility, employment, educational opportunities, and food security is by having a stable home.” 

             

Antonio agrees.  “Before I didn’t know anything about this life, but it’s different, very different. You have to be in the cold you have to be in hot. But it’s life, it’s experience, experience for a little but I hope to try and maybe do a little better in the future to find a job, go back to life I had before.”

For many, driving through the intersection of

I’m kind of in love with the Denver Art Museum’s recently reopened Martin Building.  The DAM’s headquarters since 1971, and formerly known as “the North building” or “Ponti”, the Martin is dazzling. 

The newly added Sie Welcome Center with its round, glass-walled pavilion draws you in from the street. Once inside, you find yourself in a very long, light-filled hall (Duncan Hall).   Immediately to the right and left are restaurant options — the Ponti and Cafe Gio.   A few steps further is the welcome desk.  Once you’ve checked in, walk past the desk and look up at the newly installed ceiling.  Is that sunlight filtering through those openings?  Is it a stylized view of a nighttime skyline?  It also evokes the exterior of Gio Ponti’s building design. 

Walk a little further and meet the new grand staircase — sinuous, sublime white terrazzo.   You’ll want to put your hand on the railing and climb those stairs, but not just yet.  Walk past the staircase and look up again.  The filtered light ceiling opens up and a huge skylight offers a view of the original glass-tile exterior of the seven-story Ponti building.  It is Italian architect Gio Ponti’s only completed project in North America.  See how the tiles reflect the light, depending on the time of day.    

Continue to the end of Duncan Hall to the Special Exhibitions Gallery to visit ReVisión: Art in the Americas.  One of the Martin’s first exhibitions brings together ancient and contemporary objects from the DAM’s Ancient American and Latin American Art collections.   It’s a treat to see different artists working in all different media telling the story of how the Americas and ancient cultures influence the present.   Among my favorite objects are Encontro das Aguas (Meeting of Waters) by Clarissa Tossin.  The installation is woven vinyl pieces showing the meeting of the brown waters of the upper Amazon River and the black waters of the Rio Negro, near one of Brazil’s largest manufacturing towns, and home to many global companies.  Not only is it visually engaging, it just makes you think!  Another set of works that really stoked my curiosity is found near the end of the exhibit.  It is the Set of Casta Paintings by Francisco Clapera.  The paintings were done in Mexico in the late 1700’s and shows the race mixing between Europeans, Africans and Natives.  

After viewing ReVisión: Art in the Americas, take the elevators up to the seventh floor.  Step into the Western American Art Galleries.  The expanded space allows for better viewing of many large works.   Along with old favorites, especially from the Taos school, I was drawn to the colors of  an abstract painting from 1961 called Springtime in the Mountains by Ethel Magafan.   It’s the first time I’ve seen this displayed at the DAM, and I couldn’t stop looking at it for quite some time. 

Also on this level, tucked into a quiet corner, is a gallery of studio portraits taken in Trinidad from the late 1890’s to the early 1900’s that shows the ethnic diversity of southern Colorado at the time.  It didn’t occur to me that the area would have the diversity that it did at that time.  

The placement of these photographs, paintings by Taos school artists, and mid-century abstraction from a woman painter all within easy viewing of one another is also a very large part of the Martin’s appeal.  I love seeing all the different art work together in one space, creating dialog and allowing the visitor to make connections, and either gain more understanding of the stories of the American West, or have more questions about it.   This is true for the different collection areas divided among the different floors of the Martin building.   Before heading down to the 6th floor, step onto the newly opened 7th floor outdoor terraces and take in the views of Denver and the mountains.     From the seventh floor, make your way down.  Each floor is a different collection area.  It is possible to do a quick stop on each floor if you’re focused, but I recommend coming back to visit again and taking time to look and appreciate the new galleries and the treasures displayed inside.   You might want to come and just spend time on one floor, or with one artwork, or a few objects.  

To make your way down from the seventh floor, I recommend taking the stairs.  The door to the stairwell is next to the elevators.   The large windows on each landing offer views of Denver that can only seen from that spot.  You’ll also be able to see and touch the original glass tile chosen by Gio Ponti to cover the building.  Each level has a different color tile.    On the sixth floor, find the European Art Before 1900 Galleries, the Textile Art and Fashion Galleries and the Photography Galleries.   Check out some of the abstract photos on view in the Photography Galleries.   It’s fun to try and figure out what the subjects from nature are.   The fifth floor houses the Asian Art Galleries.  The oldest pieces in the DAM are in the Asian Art Collection.  It would be easy to spend a few hours only on this floor.   The collection is so rich and diverse with objects from all of Asia.  For this visit, I spent time in the Japan section  with the Shinto Deity.  He is carved from a single tree trunk and is over a thousand years old, and remains intact!   His serene expression and graceful shape make him so pleasing to look at.   Also in the Japan section, look in the case of lacquerware and check out the contemporary pieces.   They look shiny and new, and probably not what you’d expect when you think of a lacquer box or vessel, yet equally pleasing to behold.   

I’d like to share more highlights from the other floors but after a day at the DAM I only got to spend time on the top three floors, and in ReVisión: Art in the Americas.   A security guard had to tell me and my friend, as we continued to be engrossed in the galleries, that it was past 5pm and the museum was closed.  We did take a break from the galleries and were able to get a table at the Ponti Restaurant.   We started with the apple and parsnip soup, and share a mezze plate and a blended burger,  as well as the almond cake and the coconut sticky rice for dessert.   It was all good.  

As a volunteer docent at the DAM, I love sharing stories about the artwork when giving tours to the public.  The reinstallation of the collections is also why I’m dazzled by the Martin.  I want to keep coming back to see what’s emerged from the museum’s store rooms, hear the “conversations” between the art, learn the stories — and share them with visitors.  

I’m kind of in love with the

Los Mocochetes is a Chicano Funk band from the La Alma/Lincoln Park neighborhood of North Denver. On their Facebook page they say “This colorful cast of characters fuses thoughtfully brazen, socio/politically charged song lyrics, groovilicious melodies and high-energy stage antics to create an immersive experience. Much like a machete, which can be used either as a tool to build or a weapon to kill, they have chosen to use their music to inspire and encourage positive social change, and they have a ton of fun along the way!” It’s protest music to dance to. Los Mocochetes dropped their first album, Mucho Gusto, in 2021.

HOW HAS LIVING IN NORTH DENVER INFLUENCED YOUR BAND AND YOUR MUSIC?

Los Mocochetes is a by-product of North Denver’s connection to the Crusade for Justice. We are influenced by Denver’s culture rooted in civil rights activism and community engagement since the 60s. The north side is always going to have a special place in our hearts! 

With some of us in the band Growing up in North DENVER we have been blessed to be surrounded by some of the best bands in town to some of the best restaurants in town and some of the best culture the city has to offer . Although North DENVER is changing it will always have a big Chicano history presence. We all recognize that if it weren’t for their contribution to DENVER we as a group we would never be here. We thank all the elders for paving the way for us to speak our mind and play music for the People.  

Diego Florez bass player, Eli Montoya bass 

 WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE PLACES TO PLAY AND HANG OUT?

We enjoy playing at the Aztlan theater and Su Teatro. We love playing at Ophelia’s, Levitt pavilion and the Civic Center park!  

Some places I like to hang out are La Raza park, Platte River, 16th street, Red Rocks and Bar 38. Jon Rubio Drummer 

WHAT ARE SOME FAMILY HOLIDAY TRADITIONS THAT YOU ALL CARRY FORWARD?

Our families always celebrate Dia de Los Muertos. We always try to carry this tradition and other ceremonies that have been passed down to us. We also want to pass on a culture of music so our children can learn to express themselves through this vehicle we all love so much. And we want to continue to teach our families that love will always trump hate that we can defeat evil with kindness and community. Jozer vocals

 WHAT IS YOUR CONNECTION TO FEDERAL BOULEVARD AND WHAT IS COOL ABOUT IT?

We all grew up on Feds. There has always been so much culture on this street that artist and musicians are drawn to it for inspiration. Whether we are cruising on a Sunday afternoon or driving down to get some PHO or some tacos this street will always be connected to Los Mocochetes Jozer vocals

 WHAT INSPIRES YOU TO CREATE YOUR MUSIC AND WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE BAND?

Our music is a reflection of our community. We write about the issues our people face everyday. We are inspired by the discrimination we face, but also by the love we receive. We are inspired by our ancestors and the ones who paved the road for us to freely express ourselves. We are inspired by the students we work with and their passion for this arts fuels us daily Jozer Vocals   

Los Mocochetes is a Chicano Funk band

Most neighborhoods have longtime residents…the lucky ones have neighbors with special characteristics.  The Whittier neighborhood was blessed with Bob Ragland. Bob loved old stuff and made art out of the stuff he found.  There is an art to dumpster diving and Bob was the expert.  He knew every alley and trash days for each.  My last conversation with him was in my alley a few days before his passing. Stroll throughout the neighborhood and city and you will spot a piece of Bob’s sculpture in many yards.  I will miss ducking through his many pieces hanging in my path to Whittier Cafe and the signs that they were all for sale.

Our paths also crossed throughout Denver’s art scene where Bob would be surrounded by artists and art lovers.  He never stopped teaching us that doing art was a great profession, that we all should be doing well and he could teach us how to make that happen.  

It did not take long for news to spread throughout our neighborhood that something had happened to Bob Ragland.  Appreciation for our neighborhood surged once again when I heard it was Whittier Cafe staff who called in a wellness check when they realized Bob had not been seen for a few days.  We wish the outcome of that welfare check would have been different but so grateful it was done.  

Bob Ragland was an icon and helped to make our neighborhood one folks want to hang out in.   His persistence that there was no reason to be a starving artist, he was not one and buying his art would help that cause be long remembered.  Our neighborhood walks will still include Dolly Lama and others like her thanks to Bob and his dumpster diving.   But we will miss the alley conversations and gallery openings where the message was loud and clear. Bob Ragland was not a starving artist.RIP Bob Ragland…the Whittier neighborhood will miss you!

Most neighborhoods have longtime residents

I used to love Election Day as a child, not just due to the fact that we got off from school, but because I somehow knew the importance of having a voice from such a young age. I vividly remember seeing my elementary school gym transformed, covered in red, white and blue, filled with voting booths and long lines of people waiting to make a difference. As I followed my mom into the booth, I watched her cast her votes that she hoped would help to change the world. This routine continued with both my parents for most of my childhood, forevering cementing the idea that I wanted to grow up and be part of positive change, just like them. 

I turned eighteen in 2018 but I voted for the first time by myself in the November 2020 election. I did not walk into a voting booth or wait in line at an election center, instead I filled out my ballot at home and placed it in the dropbox on campus. The process was simple, but the impact that it had on me was profound. Young voters, like myself, had spent months up to this point reading Tweets and looking at Instagram posts that deluged us with information. The process of determining what was real or fake became the most difficult step, forcing us to work overtime in order to find the truth. Voter education has never been strong in some areas of the country, leaving citizens discouraged to cast a ballot. However, there is a reason that voter turnout has skyrocketed in recent years and that is due to the increase of digital communication among young people.

Social media and the Internet has given us the unique opportunity to spread information far and wide, helping to make the process of voting easier to understand. In turn, people all over the country became educated on ideas and concepts that they never knew existed because information was suddenly accessible to them. Watching movements like #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo grow on social media inspired millions of people all over the country to make a change, which was one of the many reasons youth voter turnout in the 2020 election was the highest since the voting age was changed to eighteen. Young people no longer wanted to take a back seat to the older generations. We had just lived through one of the toughest years of our lives due to COVID-19 and we were not going to sit around for much longer. 

Our generation has a strong concern about climate change, gender and race inequality and other injustices that occur everyday in America. College students across the country can now take an array of classes that educate them on these topics so that they have a deep understanding of these complex issues.  By preparing themselves with the needed information to make an educated decision about the issues and candidates, young voters can feel confident in the choices that they are making and they can feel proud that they are part of change in American policies. We have grown up learning and discussing these issues, waiting for an opportunity to make a difference. Casting a ballot in an election, local or presidential, is the first step that we can take in creating the country that we want to live in. 

I used to love Election Day as

Thanksgiving is this Thursday, and for thousands of people across North Denver that means gathering with family and friends to celebrate and stuff themselves with food. But for many, this joyous holiday meal is not so simple to put together. 

North Denver faces its own set of issues involving food insecurity, making the need for outside aid greater than ever this year. Greg Pratt is the executive director of Bienvenidos Food Bank.  Bienvenidos Food Bank has been a part of the North Denver area for over 45 years, and has helped thousands of people experience the joys of a full stomach.

Food banks like Bienvenidos are the heart of the North Denver community. Without specialty services like these offered throughout the neighborhoods, thousands of people would go without the joys of a Thanksgiving tradition and a delicious meal. “This is the time of year when people really need food and many family traditions are surrounding food,” Greg explains. 

“We know that a lot of people will come and say they’ve been invited to someone else’s Thanksgiving dinner and they’re so excited to be able to come and get something to bring to that meal. Even if it’s as simple as bringing the cranberry sauce or the fixings to make a pumpkin pie or the potatoes to make the mashed potatoes. It’s exciting to see that people can leave here with these kinds of opportunities.” 

Beginning in early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic altered our world in more ways than we ever thought possible. All around North Denver food banks, homeless shelters and other outreach programs struggled to keep their welcoming doors open to the public.  Bienviendos faced its own challenges, losing mass amounts of volunteers and food donations due to the pandemic, making everyday operations extremely difficult. But through it all, they persisted and with the help of the North Denver community and some strategic planning they continued to provide food to those struggling more than ever. 

Greg offers that it is the sense of being able to contribute, both for the organization and the individuals involved, that is the true joy that a Thanksgiving meal can bring to an individual. Without these organizations, thousands of people throughout North Denver would never have the chance to experience the normalcy of holiday tradition. 

In small communities, helping your neighbors is second nature, which is exactly what Bienvenidos Food Bank does around the clock. “While people always think about food banks during the holidays, we are here to remember that people are hungry all year long. Our main goal is to be a food pantry that can be here for all the other weeks of the year,” says Greg. As Greg explains, people tend to overlook the importance of keeping food banks stocked all year long. Around the holidays, organizations all over North Denver run special events to collect extra food and cash donations in order to help people in need at a hard time. 

What Bienvenidos wants everyone to remember is that their services are available to anyone at any time. It is not specific to a certain time of year, instead they dedicate themselves to around the clock service. Food banks and other organizations like this create the sense of community that North Denver needs in order to thrive, especially in times of uncertainty. Without these services, the joys of the holidays, along with maintaining a sense of security throughout the year, would not be possible for many people.  Bienvenidos Food Bank is open most Thursdays at 3801 Pecos Street in the Sunnyside neighborhood of Denver.

Thanksgiving is this Thursday, and for thousands

“When strangers start acting like neighbors… communities are reinvigorated.”  Ralph Nader   

I can barely remember where I park my car these days, but I can remember our neighbors on Waa Street in Honolulu from my childhood.  The Elliots next door.  Up from them the Rhodes family, then the Bensons and the Franklins.  Across the street the Cravens and Ikenagas and along the alley, the Pangs and the Chings.  There was also that neighbor we didn’t get along with back behind our house.  Over the years, as I’ve moved from house to house, I’ve been blessed by wonderful neighbors.  Parents and children, Mary who brings us Irish soda bread on St. Patrick’s Day, those we joined for parties and progressive dinners , those who would feed you when you dropped by at dinnnertime, those who would watch your dog when you went out of town. And, of course, those who lent you a hand or a cup of sugar.  I’m grateful for all of them.    

If there was one light in the darkness of Coronavirus, it allowed us to know our neighbors better.  With all of us in our bubbles we came out of our houses as winter turned to spring.  Front yards became places to meet and greet.  Across the street are young homeowners who grow food in their front yard.  They sent over a massive zucchini, and we sent back zucchini bread.  We have a couple of Wide Spread Panic junkies, Olive is 83 and has cognitive issues and is showing us the challenges of aging, We’re watching Sam grow up, and Jim is the neighborhood dad.  Always helping with something and looking after the folks on the street.  And then there are the dogs, Lila and Hatfield, Annie and Izzy.  Our dogs are neighbors too.  In fact, these days it seems we get to know our neighbors through our dogs rather than our children. 

When I count my blessings this Thanksgiving, I will be grateful for my neighbors.  A couple of weeks ago we were invited to Jim and Hazel’s home for a graduation celebration.  Their granddaughter had completed her college and became a medical assistant.  They made a cupcake tree to celebrate her accomplishment. Their multi-generational Hispanic family was bursting with pride. Relatives came from as far as Pueblo to honor Sammantha and I couldn’t help but wish I had a large extended family within a stone’s throw.  The love for family, friends and neighbors was palpable and inspiring.  It reminded me of being back in Hawaii as families gathered in the parks for baby luaus when children turned one.  It put me in a festive and nostalgic mood and made me want to pay it forward.  I felt so fortunate to be their neighbor.  

Which brings me to the quote at the top of the page and the purpose for this article.  I wonder what our community (or even our country) would be like if we approached one another as neighbors.  Not right or left, vaxed or unvaxed, White or Black or Brown, but as neighbors.  Someone you would help and have over. Someone you treat respectfully.  For over two years Bucket List Community Café has been an online home for building community and helping us feel less like strangers and more like neighbors.  We are your home for information, inspiration and interaction and we are working to build community throughout North Denver.  Whether one lives in Sunnyside, or Globeville or North Park Hill or Whittier or Highland or Montbello.  Whether we have homes or are homeless.  We are all neighbors. 

 

Neighborhood potluck

Bucket List Community Café is community inspired, and community supported by our neighbors.  Starting on 11/30 and going through 12/31 we will be fundraising.  Colorado Media Project will match your contributions dollar for dollar up to $5000 and Bucket List Community Café will grow and be able to better serve North Denver.  We are so grateful to you, our neighbors, for supporting community journalism.      

“When strangers start acting like neighbors

Early in the morning on moving day, a group of gentlemen stood taping and labeling boxes, joking quietly with one another. Their neighbors had just started waking up. Stacks of belongings accumulated in the southwest corner of Denver’s safe outdoor space at East 16th Avenue and Pearl Street. The men planned to be ready to move early, since two of them were due back at nearby Network Coffee House in time to serve lunch.

Tuesday, June 1: moving day for Max, Zeke, Kevin, Peter and Gary. Sure, packing was a bit chaotic. The tape went missing and Kevin commandeered the Sharpie® to create some leg tattoos. But they knew that by the end of the day they would be settled in at the safe outdoor space’s new location on the Regis University campus in North Denver. They heard it would be quieter there than at the set-up they were leaving, within earshot of Colfax.

Most residents at Denver’s first two safe outdoor spaces moved to the Regis University location on June 1st. Some—like the five early risers we spoke to—will move again in mid-June to a new site planned for Park Hill United Methodist Church on Montview Boulevard. A few others were able to time more stable housing moves ahead of this transition. When both sites and moves are complete, combined capacity will increase from 70 to 100, with the latest agreements running from June 1 through December 31, 2021.  The population of the camps is supposed to approximate the diversity of those on the street.  According to organizers the camp occupancy is 50% people of color.    

“It’s a significant transition,” says Cole Chandler, Executive Director of Colorado Village Collaborative, “like any big change, it comes with some anxiety.” Residents will be further from the downtown surroundings many are accustomed too—amenities, healthcare providers, friends. But staff had been checking in with residents over the weeks leading up to the move, talking over plans and working together to get ready.

Thirty six people and their belongings (and a handful of pets), plus supplies for staff and community, are moving from two separate locations. Trucks and cars made several trips. For each resident, hours or days had been spent sifting through their possessions to determine if there were things they didn’t want to bring. Boxes, bags, and suitcases piled up. Plants, small chairs and shelves—each item labeled with a name on blue painter’s tape. 

Colorado springtime insisted on its usual unpredictable sun-rain mix. By day’s end, residents, staff and volunteers were sweaty, some sunburned, many eventually donning hoodies or jackets as wind and chill settled in and rain fell. Max drew a line with his hand across a seam toward the top of his tent, “These red tents are meant for ice fishing. They keep the snow out. But see this here, it doesn’t keep out heavy rain.” 

The day came with other hiccups like electricity that wasn’t yet flowing to the site, and a backpack that wasn’t labeled, and the resident who had a mid-day shift at work and didn’t arrive to settle in before rain threatened to soak her belongings.  But an ample supply of teamwork kept things on track. Sack lunches (each with a special hand-written message) and bottled water sat ready for the taking. The new safe outdoor space has the same amenities as the initial two: bathrooms, hand sinks, meals, drinking water, weekly laundry and showers, and shade tents. As importantly: support services like 24/7 staff, daily wellness screenings, access to COVID-19 testing and a range of outreach and referral assistance (for housing, employment, benefits).

The Regis location includes 56 tents for up to 60 people, including singles, couples, pets, and people with disabilities. Each tent will have electricity and Internet within the week. And plans are in place for additional shade tents and ducted cooling in time for hot summer days.

Denver’s Safe Outdoor Spaces program was created last summer to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, connect people who are without housing to supportive services, and to reduce the impact of unsanctioned camps. While neighborhood tensions ran high leading up to the opening of Denver’s first two sites in June 2020, concerns quickly eased.  During the day, residents set off to work or medical appointments or visit with a range of service providers. They spend time resting in their shelters, building community with one another in the shade tents, or filling out applications for housing or jobs.

But housing alone is a challenge. The National Low Income Housing Coalition’s March 2021 report, “The Gap: A Shortage of Affordable Homes” listed Denver-Aurora-Lakewood’s affordable and available housing at crisis deficit levels. The metro area falls 87,083 housing units short of what would be needed for households living at or below 50% the Area Median Income. And according to Chandler, there are 6,000 people experiencing homelessness each night in the Denver area.

Peter and Gary have found the Regis site after their shift at Network Coffee House. All five men we met early in the morning–Max, Zeke, Kevin, Peter and Gary–have done enough unpacking to take a few minutes to relax. “We haven’t heard a single fire engine yet,” Peter says, looking over his shoulder toward the fence blocking a view of Federal Boulevard. 

Kevin heads back over to the front gate to help unload the last moving van. Their friend Gypsy, from the Pearl St location, has finished setting up their tent in the row behind them and is pulling up a folding chair to visit with Peter. The two work on a makeshift coffee concoction and try not to let the delay in the site’s electrical hookup get them down. “We’re good,” Peter says, smiling and sipping his coffee, “We’ll be just fine.”

Learn more about the project at: 
https://www.coloradovillagecollaborative.org/safe-outdoor-space-regis

Here are a few ways neighbors can pitch in:

Daily Volunteers 
Shifts from 9am-1pm and 1-5pm

Meal Train

Amazon Wishlist

Early in the morning on moving day,

A few years ago, I hiked the Inca Trail in Peru and learned about Pachamama.  In the simplest of terms, she is Mother Earth.  Wikipedia’s definition is:

“In Inca mythology, Mama Pacha or Pachamama is a fertility goddess who presides over planting and harvesting. Pachamama is usually translated as “Mother Earth”, but a more literal translation would be “Mother Universe” (in Aymara and Quechua mama = mother / pacha = world, space-time or the universe).”

While the term was new, the concept wasn’t.  Many cultures have Earth associated with the feminine and giver of life and sustenance.  That resonates with me, and gardening is my tribute to Mother Earth.  Plus, I get to play in the dirt all summer!  I hope my story inspires you to get outside and play in the dirt while doing right by Pachamama. 

Let me start by saying I’m not an expert but someone that enjoys gardening and the many values that are inherent in the simple act of gardening.  Well not so simple with zones, seasons, rotations, nutrient needs, pests, and microbiology of the soil.  My yard is in a perpetual cycle of experimentation whether that is cover crops to add green manure, milky spore for Japanese beetles or my latest no-till and sheet mulching.  To the untrained eye, it looks like disaster and chaos but in my head it’s self-sufficiency, lowering my carbon footprint, and healing the land.  While I’m not an expert, I’m not a complete newbie either.  I’ve been gardening to some degree my entire adult life.  I like to think of myself as living in a sustainable manner, though I often appear like the bag lady hoarding newspaper, cardboard and looking for free stuff on NextDoor.  In return I’m pushing zucchini, tomatoes and peppers to neighbors, friends, and innocent passersby or what I like to believe is “building community”!  

This year I decided to remove the grass in my front yard.  Besides it being the water-conscious choice, every self-proclaimed gardener needs more garden space!  Am I right?!?  Maybe this is an addiction, but I digress.  The first decision I had to make was how best to remove the turf.  My Google searches led to following options:  mechanically remove the grass, solarize, chemically treat (oh heck no!) or something more regenerative by way of smothering the grass of light.  No need to explain pesticide use.  I thought about solarizing, which literally cooks the grass until it dies, but that kills everything from pests to the good microorganisms.  I decided it needed to be either mechanical (hubby with a new shovel) or regeneratively or a combination.  

The second choice I needed to make was what to put in its place.  I have about 400sqft of space and I knew I wanted flowers as well as more space for food.  For the flower garden portion, I needed it to be pretty since this was in the front yard.  I’m a right-brain individual and struggle with “pretty” in general.  But trying to find the right flowering plants that factor in drought tolerance, non-invasive or native species, colors, heights, spacing and bloom time was too much for me.  I needed a turn-key solution.  

Enter Resource Central!  They are the folks who created Garden in a Box.  They offer professionally designed, plant-by-numbers solutions.  All the design work is done for you.  You simply pick a design that fits your space and sun requirements, pay, and pick up the plants when they’re ready.  They offer this twice a year, Spring and Fall and they sell out.  If you are interested, get on their email distribution so you know when they open the ordering.  Here is the link:  https://resourcecentral.org/gardens/.  

For the flower garden, my husband removed the grass using a shovel.  I think he enjoys the mindlessness of the physical labor. Then I laid down 5-7 layers of newspaper to create a weed barrier and watered down the area.  This was now ready for the Garden in a Box plants.  You simply dig a hole through the paper and plant. Even though it wasn’t necessary, I placed a little compost in each hole. I couldn’t help myself. 

The second half of the space will be used to grow food, so building nutrient-rich soil will be needed.  But I still had to kill the grass first.  Enter the free cardboard I’ve been collecting from neighbors.  By covering the turf with cardboard, you smother the grass of light, but the grass dies in place and contributes nitrogen to the soil.  The cardboard will also breakdown in place and add carbon.  Nitrogen and carbon are the building blocks of compost so this method kills the grass while building the soil.  This process is best done in the Fall so the work happens over winter when most things are dormant anyway.  Continuing the pattern of nitrogen and carbon layering is what is referred to as sheet/lasagna mulching.  This concept also leads to no-till gardening which is my experiment for the next few growing seasons.  

Lastly, I put wood chips on top of the entire yard.  This is another free resource as tree removal companies rather give away their wood chips than pay for disposal.  The half with the Garden in a Box is all set.  The second half with cardboard will decompose over the winter and begin building soil for vegetable beds next Spring.  I’m happy with the results of our project so far.  I can’t wait to see The Garden in a Box in full bloom by year two or three.  

Trupti Suthar lives in Sunnyside and is president of Sunnyside United Neighbors. When she is not organizing events and building community, she is in her garden or in her kitchen whipping up delicious food with what she grows.

A few years ago, I hiked the

It didn’t take a genius to see what was missing.  It didn’t take a high paid consultant either.  It took a handful of college students doing a deep dive into Bucket List Community Café for a capstone strategic communications class at CU Denver to notice we didn’t have a mission statement.  After two years of posting stuff and hoping things sticked we were finally forced to ask ourselves “where are we going?”  Are we a blog?  Are we a community journalism site?  Are we an aggregator?  What was the purpose of this labor of love that started as musings about North Denver and ended up being so much more?  How, the students wondered, can we help you grow if you don’t have a clear purpose?  Ouch!  Time to take a step back and take a good look at what we wanted to be. 

Bucket List Community Café has a unique niche at the intersection between journalism and community. It’s your North Denver online hub for information, inspiration and interaction.  We cover news, issues, culture, events, food, fun and more.  Everyone has a story and it doesn’t have to be newsworthy to be important.  Bucket List Community Café brings people together by sharing these stories and engaging our neighbors across North Denver. We are friendly and positive and lean towards social justice.  We support community journalism and collaborate with non-profits and small businesses. We are hyperlocal and strive to represent the diverse voices from different neighborhoods of North Denver.      

We care about all people who live in our community including those who are homeless, food insecure, BIPOC, LGBTQ+ and those with different abilities.  We do journalism by walking around.  We believe community news is a part of an ecosystem and stories rise from the grassroots: our homes, streets and neighborhoods.  Our concerns and activism reflect a response, not just in our community, but to the larger issues we face as a state and nation.  We are all in this together.  

Bucket List Community Cafe believes journalism is stronger when it is community inspired and supported.  We believe that it is important to engage young journalists and communicators, and mentor them on their journey.  We believe it is important to pay forward and give back.  We work to be accessible on our daily Facebook feed, Instagram, Twitter, our website at http://bucketlistcommunitycafe.com and through our monthly newsletter.  There are no paywalls, subscriptions, memberships or ads. Everyone is welcome at Bucket List Community Café.

You know what?  Once we had this mission statement and a record of accomplishments that we were able to detail we started getting more attention.  Those we had tried to connect with started noticing us and after two years of not being sure where we were going, we now have a clear direction.  That doesn’t mean we can’t change course.  We evolve every day, but we are on our way.  Now we are one of 26 community news sites in the state chosen by Colorado News Collaborative and Colorado Media Group to receive a $5000 matching grant.  Between November  30 and December 31, if you contribute to Bucket List Community Café it’s like you’re giving twice. 

If you value hyperlocal journalism, if you want to know what’s going on in your neighborhood and in those around you, if you want to know where to go and what to do and how decisions made by others are affecting you, please help us.  If you want to see original storytelling from the grassroots, if you want to live in a rich ecosystem of news and information and have an online home in the community that makes a difference, please help us.   People in North Denver are involved and generous.  As you consider your year-end giving, please help support our mission by contributing to Bucket List Community Café so we can continue our commitment to information, inspiration and interaction.

It didn’t take a genius to see

My mother made our Halloween costumes by hand.  She baked elaborate birthday cakes, made holidays feel like magic, and as my sister and I got older found other ways to show us how much she loved us.  Going to work early so she could be at every soccer game we played in, putting surprises in our lunches for school, hosting sleepovers with all our friends, these were ways that she constructed a chilldhood and memories.  I loved to create things as a child, and she fostered that in me by providing construction paper, Duct Tape, scissors, etc.  Eventually she taught me to sew, and this elevated my creations from ragged Teddy Bears, to pillows, to clothes, to when she helped me turn a tie-dyed sheet that we made into a quilt for my first college dorm.  

My mom and dad created a safe home on our 27 acre farm outside a small town in Pennsylvania where I felt I could travel and explore and still have this foundation that was unwavering.  Then there was a crack.  We found out that my mom had cancer in the spring of 2001.  She passed away just a month later.  My life didn’t make sense anymore.  The world didn’t seem like a possible place without her in it.  I was just nineteen years-old when I spoke at her Memorial Service, and I shared a story about butterflies and read a poem called “Butterflies are Free.”  

Our community stepped up for our family. Our friends and family surrounded us with love and with butterflies as a way to show us that she’s still with us.  I was supposed to be transferring to college that fall in Colorado.  I made these plans before my mom got sick, and when I asked my dad what he wanted me to do, he gave me his most selfless parent response…that he wanted me to “Go and live my life.”

Colorado has been a vital part of my grief and healing journey.  Just two weeks after I got here and was spending every day trying to fill up the minutes, the hours, two girls walked by my house with a wagon of puppies.  I picked the one that they said “No one ever picks.”  And I named her Posa, short for Mariposa (butterfly in Spanish).  She brought me back to life and was my companion for over 14 years.  After college I started working with young people in Denver, and as I worked tirelessly to fill the void of losing my mom and sharing the love and nurturing that she gave me, I stopped creating things.  I hadn’t touched a sewing machine since my mom was alive until I sat down and came up with the design for this scarf.  I made several prototypes to try to perfect the design, but with the demands of working two jobs in education, they sat in a drawer for a long time.

I met my husband Paul in May of 2013.  That December he was going to a birthday party for his teenage cousin.  He said he needed to go buy her a scarf or “something,” and so I showed him one of the ones I made.  He lit up.  He studied Theater in college and so had to learn costume construction.  He refined the design, and this is the product that we have today.  When we decided to go on this business adventure together, we debated for a long time as to what we should call the scarf and our company.  We just kept going back to “Posa.”  

I have felt in different stages of metamorphosis throughout my grief, but creating a company that honors the dog, who saved my life, and my mom, our Butterfly, who continues to make us all grow, has been a big part of my healing.  

Posa Apparel.  We build CONNECTION and share our stories through fashion.  You can learn more about us on our website and contact us at amber@posaapparel.com oor paul@posaapparel.com.   A portion of every purchase goes to a charity of your choice.  

My mother made our Halloween costumes by