Often people are told that if they “believe it,” they can “achieve it.” This fallacious thinking is responsible for most of the inequity currently thriving in the United States: essentially, if people are in dire straights, they were unwilling to “do what it takes.” Large-scale federal policies require several hurdles–many of which are contrary private entities–and therefore take extensive time before they can be of value. Private entities are usually willing to step in only if public entities are willing to compensate the loss in profit. However, local entities have enormous capacities to examine their communities and create policies that develop a thriving city for all residents.
Denver, like many cities of its size, has two problems: overbuilding of luxury housing and lower wages due to a rise in the service industry. While most cities are feverishly redeveloping to create a trendy atmosphere, many are avoiding the inequity conversation that arises in the face of too much luxury. If a city structures its reputation as a tourist attraction, i.e. trendy, it creates a dichotomy of service workers who maintain the entertainment, and professionals who can afford to be entertained. For example, in many marginalized areas of a city, the air quality is so low that walking can literally be harmful. In the attractive and enticing areas, those same people receive unwanted attention when they attempt to take advantage of the amenities.
However, sometimes a local government recognizes its capabilities and works to build up its most vulnerable constituents, and in November 2016, Denver decided to take on day labor. Beginning with 284 workers, the program slowly whittled down to 110 people achieving full-time jobs, 15 of which were permanent city positions. Instead of casting blame on the workers who were unsuccessful, the city acknowledged that it needed a more detailed transition program based on behavior learned from being forgotten from society. Reaching out to residents and working to make them thrive in an ever more competitive environment is how a city engages all its citizens, not just the ones who keep it trending.
Image: Lawrence Weiner’s “As to Be in Plain Sight” (2009) at the Denver Museum of Art. In the background is Denver’s Central Public Library on west 13th Ave, one of the entities participating in the Denver Day Works Program. For more information, see here: https://www.denverpost.com/2018/01/16/denver-day-works-program-homeless-jobs/