In Search of Belonging: The Spatial Politics and Legal Geographies of Siting and Permitting Lockers for Unhoused Individuals in Denver, CO

Authors: Kate Rigot*, University of Colorado Denver, Denver Homeless Out Loud, Luke Leavitt, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Denver Homeless Out Loud
Topics: Urban Geography, Legal Geography, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: homelessness, lockers, storage, private property, public space, urban planning, zoning, urban geography, right to the city
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 4:40 PM / 5:55 PM
Room: Virtual 13
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

This presentaiton covers ongoing work documenting and learning from Belonging(s), a project of grassroots homeless rights organization Denver Homeless Out Loud designed to site free, 24-hour-accessible lockers (painted so as to double as public art) for use by unhoused people, on the property of friendly businesses and organizations around Denver.
Many responses to the project’s visions and goals have been positive and have encouraged local residents to think critically about the needs of their unhoused neighbors, the struggle for space in their city, and their role in creating a culture of community care and solidarity.
However, the group has been unable to site its first set of lockers in over two years, due to apparent stonewalling from the city’s planning department, which requires a building permit in order to be able to bolt lockers into the ground. This has unfolded against a backdrop of a city responding to its unhoused population with increasing encampment “sweeps,” seizure of property, and other forms of dispossession, as residents of informal encampments struggle to survive on the streets and stay safe during a pandemic.
This struggle for storage space - and for the rights of housed residents to use their own property to care for their unhoused neighbors - continues today and will likely unfold further in the months leading up to this presentation.
This work is done in collaboration with Denver Homeless Out Loud and the houseless community, as both the presenter and a collaborator are heavily involved in the Belonging(s) project itself.

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