Like other public spaces around the city, Englewood’s library has become a place where homeless individuals are a common part of the scene. Englewood City Council in June approved expanded private …
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Colorado Community Media's ongoing series, “No Place to Call Home,” explores the reasons behind the rise in homelessness in Englewood and the response from various parts of the community, from businesses and city government to nonprofits, the faith community and schools.
For part 1 and the rest of part 2 of the series, which explores the relationship between the homeless, law enforcement and other public institutions, click here.
Like other public spaces around the city, Englewood’s library has become a place where homeless individuals are a common part of the scene.
Englewood City Council in June approved expanded private security for the Englewood Civic Center, which houses the library on its first floor, the municipal court on the second floor and city offices on the third floor. The Museum of Outdoor Arts and Hampden Hall, a cultural arts facility, also sit on the second floor.
Library manager Jon Solomon said the change isn’t because of homeless individuals or any increase in incidents but, rather, long-standing security issues based on the structure of the building, a remnant of the old Cinderella City mall. The civic center sits at the west end of Englewood Parkway near the RTD light-rail station.
On the third floor, the city has “had incursions of transients and other individuals in areas where they shouldn’t be,” City Manager Eric Keck said in June.
The city was adding security barriers and doors that require credentials to get in, Keck added.
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In the 12 months ending in March, the library had recorded more than 20 incidents involving mostly alcohol and some drugs. And bloody tissues and needles, suggestive of drug injections, have been found in the men’s bathroom.
Solomon said he can’t determine how many incidents are connected to homeless patrons because the library doesn’t have information on who is homeless. But he said people with drug problems likely need a warm, dry place to use.
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Kemp Kehn, a friendly homeless man in his 40s who uses computers at the library several days a week, said the population who appears to be homeless is slowly but steadily increasing in the seven years he’s been a patron.
Between the library’s opening and closing time — on especially hot or cold days — Kehn estimates about 30 homeless patrons may come to the library. But on some days, barely any might visit. He identifies them based on whether they appear stressed or unfamiliar with the area, their clothing or whether they have many belongings with them.
Since the vast majority of all patrons don’t cause problems of any kind, it’s likely that most who appear to be homeless don’t cause any incidents either, Solomon has said.
The library seemed to see less evidence of possible drug use or other incidents during a pilot program for roughly the six months that ended in December, when Englewood police officers patrolled the civic center, Solomon said.
City council did not want to continue to have police work overtime, according to Keck.
The extended private security is now to patrol the building when the civic center is normally open to the public, including the library’s hours, as of Aug. 1.
The expansion will last for one year and may be extended by city council based on results. Previously, some hours of the day, most notably mornings and early afternoons Monday through Friday, were not covered by the security company, G4S.
The guards focus on intervention but do not use physical force or make arrests, Solomon said. They rely on Englewood police for dangerous or illegal situations.
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