“I don’t have anybody in my life, so I collect them,” Laura Lindquist said of her stuffed animals. “They’re just things that I spent money on when I finally got my stuff back from being stolen; they were the first things. They’re like my kids.” Lindquist is pictured at the Rodeway Inn shelter in Denver on July 3, 2023. (Chloe Anderson for Colorado Newsline)
Denver plans to close the Rodeway Inn, the city’s only non-congregate shelter option for transgender and other LGBTQ+ individuals who are unhoused.
The Rodeway, on Federal Boulevard in Denver’s Berkeley neighborhood, has been leased since August 2020 when the Denver Housing Authority purchased the property using one of Denver’s affordable housing funds, CPR reported. Residents were given their own private room and bathroom, which is a unique model implemented at The Gathering Place, a day shelter in Denver that operates the Rodeway. The hotel also featured amenities such as key card-access doors and on-site security.
Overall, the city says 114 people who lived at the Rodeway have been placed in long-term housing, including 65 placements since February 2022.
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Laura Brudzynski, who leads Denver’s Department of Housing Stability, known as HOST, told Newsline that the Rodeway has also taught the city a lot about the value of this kind of shelter.
“The most important lesson we’ve learned is the value of non-congregate shelter on the pathway to housing and about the dignity that type of shelter option provides to those who need it,” Brudzynski said. Non-congregate shelter sites typically offer residents some level of privacy.
“I was an activist that was standing up for social reform — and I had to stop to fight for my life,” said Angela Browne, seen at the Rodeway Inn shelter in Denver on July 3, 2023. “But I never left. I'm still here.” Despite ongoing mental and physical health issues, Browne worked as a nurse for several years to support their grandfather and grandson. (Chloe Anderson for Colorado Newsline)
Laura Lindquist is one of the dozens of residents facing homelessness since Denver announced that the Rodeway Inn will close in August. The Gathering Place — a Denver-based nonprofit — began renting the old hotel in August 2020 to give female, transgender and nonbinary people a safe place to call home. The organization’s lease is up on Aug. 24. Photo taken on July 3, 2023. (Chloe Anderson for Colorado Newsline)
Laura Lindquist began living in the Rodeway Inn shelter in Denver in February. Before moving in, all of her belongings were stolen while she was living on the streets. She found peace behind the locked door of her private room at The Gathering Place-run facility. “First place I could call home,” she wrote on a piece of paper. Photo is from July 3, 2023. (Chloe Anderson for Colorado Newsline)
Brudzynski added that about 67% of Rodeway residents have been connected with another “housing solution” and that Denver is still working with partner organizations like The Gathering Place and the Salvation Army to connect the rest. The city also has about $23 million to secure similar properties for non-congregate shelter and that HOST is working with Denver’s real estate team to identify future sites. For example, Denver spent about $10 million to acquire a former Clarion Hotel at 200 West 48th Avenue on June 20 to convert it into non-congregate shelter.
But for the 71 individuals who call the Rodeway home, the shock of potentially losing their home is something they can’t stop thinking about. On June 28, Rodeway residents delivered a petition with 50 signatures to HOST demanding to be placed in permanent housing, given a housing voucher, or placed in another non-congregate shelter after the hotel closes on Aug. 24.
Colorado Newsline spoke with individuals currently living at the Rodeway about how the hotel’s closure will impact them and what could be left behind if they don’t receive a housing placement or voucher.
The following “as-told-to” accounts are based on conversations with some of those unhoused residents. They have been edited for length and clarity.
Olivia Demir, 56, is concerned about losing her self-identity
I have been living at the Rodeway Inn since February and before I arrived, I wasn’t in good shape. My therapist at the Transgender Center of Denver says I suffer from severe PTSD and depression overlapped with gender dysphoria. I’ve been in and out of the hospital so many times that it’s hard to keep track.
Having a safe place to call home like the Rodeway was important to me while I am transitioning because I can dress the way that I want and to carry myself as the person I know that I am. There aren’t many other places where I can do that. I have been discriminated against and physically attacked all my life, both because I am Jewish and because I am transgender. For instance, I was harassed by individuals while I lived at other shelters and while I was living on the streets, too. It made me feel suicidal.
It’s not like that at the Rodeway at all. All the women feel safe, and I’ve never experienced any sort of harassment or attack since I moved in. All the doors are locked and there are employees here 24/7. I feel safe here.
My therapist has even noticed a big change in me. I’ve started painting and drawing again, which I haven’t done in years. But I can’t do that when I’m living at shelters or on the streets. When you don’t have a safe place to stay, you don’t have those options.
Getting the news that the Rodeway is closing at the end of August really triggered my PTSD. I have been having nightmares about going back to being homeless, and I wake up feeling like there is a ton of bricks laying on my chest. It’s made me feel hopeless. I’m also worried about what will happen to my cat, Olive. He keeps me company when I am feeling lonely, and we do everything together now. He’s my support animal, for lack of a better term, and if I lose this place I don’t know what’s going to happen to him and that makes me sad.
Marky, 55, said she could lose her newfound family
(Preferred to give first name only) We’re a family here, and we all share a common thread since we all know what it’s like to live without a home. We’ve decided to put aside our issues and choices and band together as Rodeway residents. We really wouldn’t have much if we didn’t have each other.
Part of being in the Rodeway family is giving others a sense of security that doesn’t exist out on the streets. If I leave my stuff in my room, it will still be there when I come back. I have all my wigs out and my clothes are hung up. I even have some jewelry stashed on top of my dresser. Even though I’ve been here for months, it’s still kind of odd to me, because if you’re living outside, then your stuff is going to get rifled through or stolen. There was a group of us that went to (Rocky Mountain Lake Park) at like 3 in the morning last week to smoke cigarettes. None of us were worried about what our rooms would look like when we returned.
But for some of us, the Rodeway is the closest we will get to a shelter. There are some people here who won’t go to shelters because they’re dirty or violent or they don’t think the shelter staff will help them.
This is also the closest that some others will get to having a stable family. For example, I have nine street children (editor’s note: “street children” refers to unhoused youths who live under the supervision of community elders), and if I caught someone messing with any one of them, I would really mess them up. The same goes for my children. I had one named Country who got physical with his girlfriend once He hid from me for a few days and when he came back around, I didn’t even speak to him. I just smacked him as he walked up. I told him: “That’s not the way I raised you.”
We’re not holding these kids down and shoving alcohol or drugs down their throats like some people think we are. We really do know how to be a family. And that’s what’s going to be left behind if this place closes and some of us are forced to go back to living on the streets.
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