Maiker Housing Partners Statement on Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman’s Experience on the Streets of Metro Denver
This statement is written in response to Mayor Mike Coffman’s recent remarks regarding the week he spent on the streets. View press here.
In 2020 alone, Maiker Housing Partners provided safe and stable housing to over 1,600 households at its owned and managed properties in Adams County and nearly $3.9 million in emergency rental assistance to Adams County residents in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Each of these families and individuals is a valued member of our community with individual gifts, talents and stories and is representative of any one of us who could fall on hard times. Since our founding in 1974, Maiker has been committed to disrupting the generational poverty plaguing our society by engaging in socially conscious community development in Adams County. As an agency whose sole purpose is to provide a pipeline of high-quality affordable housing and facilitate community building to impact change, we are well aware of the issues associated with mass homelessness in America and are constantly seeking ways to innovatively address these problems. What we know from experience coupled with the immense amount of research and data available is that generations of systemic injustice are at the root of all poverty and homelessness in our present-day world.
Like so many of our partners and colleagues who fight the upstream battles of securing and providing affordable housing and the wraparound services needed to provide support to and empower our communities’ most vulnerable residents, we appreciate the recent sentiment expressed by Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman as he dipped his toe into what life on the streets of metro Denver is like in an effort to better understand the issue. However, what has resulted from his weeklong “urban camping experience” is not a broadly applicable solution to the challenge that has been before us for many years. Instead, it is a perpetuation of a deeply flawed narrative that poor people are to blame for poverty and homeless people are to blame for homelessness. The unfortunate conclusions Mayor Coffman drew from is week-long experiment with a news camera in tow are an extreme oversimplification of the systemic inequities that drive housing insecurity at scale and feed into the misunderstanding many people have about the challenges of homelessness.
At Maiker we believe not only that poverty is systemic, but also that all people have strengths and gifts, that everyone needs and deserves a home, and that the safety, health and well-being of our communities’ most vulnerable people is our collective responsibility. It is a dangerous assumption to believe poverty and housing insecurity are choices or a result of an individual’s shortcomings; we know they are instead a result of systemic racism, a lack of affordable housing, the criminalization of the war on drugs and the challenges associated with the cycle of poverty that ultimately result in insurmountable challenges for those who are left behind.
While Mayor Coffman may have had good intentions, in no way could he ever know the depth of trauma and despair that so many individuals experiencing homelessness feel. Mayor Coffman could not understand the complexity of having no place to call home at the end of a week, an empty bank account and no job to return to after this experience. Homelessness is not a vacation nor is it a situation from which one can easily exit. It is the result of a multitude of factors that cannot be oversimplified or generalized – and this type of publicity stunt is extremely detrimental to the work of any organization dedicated to addressing the root causes of poverty and helping any person exit this vicious cycle.
Maiker stands with other organizations that have spoken out against this action, including the Colorado Village Collaborative which released a powerful rebuttal to Mayor Coffman’s assumptions. We also stand with the people of Colorado experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity who have been left behind and are often unseen. We see you and we believe in you, and together we will find solutions that fit us all.
Executive Director, Maiker Housing Partners
Commissioner Eva J. Henry
Adams County, District 1
Board Chair, Maiker Housing Partners