[Hpn] Denver.. CO - Downtown truce at Skyline Park - Denver Post -- June 30, 2002

Editor Editor <icanamerica@bellsouth.net>
Wed, 03 Jul 2002 10:29:32 -0500

Downtown truce at Skyline Park
Businesses funding resource center to ease problems with street youths

By Carol Kreck -- Denver Post -- June 30, 2002

Youths gather at Skyline Park where the 16th Street Mall meets Arapahoe. The
nearby Palomino restaruant has complained about the effect on its business, but
the Downtown Denver Partnership is funding a downtown outreach center for youths
at 21st and Stout.

In the war between street kids and the Downtown Denver Partnership, Skyline Park
is ground zero.

On the 16th Street Mall at Arapahoe, Palomino's flower-bedecked patio seats
businesspeople and well-dressed ladies who lunch. On the other side of the
patio's fence are kids who sometimes panhandle, use drugs and relieve themselves
in the cozy sunken park.

After years of mutual aggravation, the factions - downtown businessmen, police,
street youths and the agencies who serve them - have reached a détente of sorts.

The partnership is contributing $70,000 over two years to a downtown outreach
center at 21st and Stout streets where kids can get resource referrals, medical
treatment and GEDs.

"Starting a place like this is a wonderful, charitable thing to do," said
19-year-old Natalie Kimber of Denver who said she works two jobs but enjoys
hanging out at the park. However, "I don't expect this to cure their problem."

Businesspeople don't expect the center will work out as well as the Platte
Valley's new skateboard park, which quickly drew hundreds of skateboarders away
from the city streets and buildings they so loved to carom off.

"We hope it will have a positive impact in drawing them away as well as
connecting them with services," said John Desmond at the Downtown Denver
Partnership. "But I'd be surprised if we see an immediate short-term impact. You
have to persist in implementation of a program without expecting instant
success, which is one of the reasons we started out with a two-year commitment."

"I would trade the skateboarders back for what I've got now," Palomino general
manager Charlie Stauter said.

What he's got is kids who "come in and shoot up in my bathroom, they harass my
guests for small change."

"Before you know it, I'm out there. Then I call the police - I've been told not
to keep calling 911."

Maybe they shouldn't have a restaurant right there by the park, said Travis
Collver, 19, and a frequenter of Skyline. Collver said he didn't know Stauter
and pointed out, "They

don't know us either. They think we're trash."

Jamie Van Leeuwen listens to both sympathetically. As program manager for Urban
Peak, which offers support to homeless youths, he, too, uses the park. Urban
Peak outreach workers know Skyline is a good place to distribute bleach kits to
sterilize needles and let kids know there's food and a 40-bed shelter at 1630 S.
Acoma St.

"We want to respond to the concerns Charlie is expressing," Van Leeuwen said.
"The idea is not to get young people off the mall, but to get young people off
the streets. The idea is that it's not Charlie's park, it's not the kids' park,
but our park."

Van Leeuwen said that as part of Urban Peak's outreach, they encourage youths to
clean up after themselves and to leave Stauter's flowers and guests alone.

On their side, the businessmen offered money and supplies for the kids' resource
center at 21st and Stout in a space provided by The Spot, a night drop-in place
for urban youths. Downtown Denver Partnership president Annie Warhover has done
street outreach with Urban Peak workers and served food to homeless youths at
Urban Peak's headquarters south of downtown.

It's a turnaround. "Historically, downtown Denver property owners and merchants
have not wanted urban adolescents on the mall," said The Spot's director, Dave
DeForest Stalls. "That includes mainly kids of color, skateboarders, anyone who
wasn't carrying a Gap bag.

"It was especially confrontational in the Skyline Park area of the mall. So it's
very exciting that the partnership would invest resources that could help
downtown adolescents."

Stauter said he realizes police are not the answer to his problem. "I want a
long-term solution, I really do. I don't want somebody to come down here with a
paddy wagon."