The Broadway Merchants Association talks about crime, homelessness and safe injection sites

DENVER — At Bar 404 on South Broadway, business owners met Tuesday to raise concerns about crime, homelessness and the possibility of a safe injection site in the area.

“Everyone on both sides sort of agrees that the current status quo isn’t working,” said Luke Johnson, president of the Broadway Merchants Association.

Johnson and others are fed up with the status quo and rampant drug use on Broadway, which they say occurs in the alleys, on sidewalks and elsewhere.

“It’s everywhere and in broad daylight,” said Angel Macauley, owner of Femme Fatale. “I honestly don’t understand why it’s so obvious these days.”

“[Denver]is having a lot of the same problems that it was a few years ago, even though we’ve spent a tremendous amount of money,” Johnson said.

The city of Denver passed an ordinance paving the way for safe injection sites in 2018, but the state of Colorado has yet to approve it.

“Here’s the thing: No one has ever died in any of those places, and neither has Starbucks, Civic Center, and Broadway,” said Lisa Raville, executive director of the Harm Reduction Action Center at 8th and Lincoln. “We are in the worst overdose crisis we have ever experienced. It’s a fentanyl overdose crisis and a multidrug overdose crisis.”

The Broadway Merchants Association looks at crime, homelessness and possible safe injection sites

Raville’s team has already built a model cabin showing what a safe injection site might look like.

She says her center would like to be Denver’s first safe injection site — or what she calls an overdose prevention center.

“The drugs are pre-sourced, which means they’re not bought or sold locally,” Raville said. “People were injecting themselves or smoking.”

Raville also says safe injection reduces the spread of HIV and hepatitis C.

“It reduces skin tissue infections; it encourages proper disposal,” Raville said. “This is currently happening in 16 countries in 150 locations over the past 30 years around the world.”

Macauley says it’s worth a try at this point.

“If you could offer something like that to these people, I don’t think it would be a big mess,” Macauley said. “Let’s try. Whatever can help – because they won’t go away.”

Johnson hesitates but says it’s time to do something.

“I think if you’re going to use taxpayer money just for drug use, I think that’s going to be a hard sell,” Johnson said. “But I think when it comes to people’s rehabilitation, I think that’s a different discussion.”

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