Homeless in Englewood

Without family, ‘I had no options’

Denver man ends up on street after fire damages home

Posted 8/22/18

In a patch of grass just out of the hot sun, Randall Thompson lay near the sidewalk along South Cherokee Street near the CityCenter Englewood shopping area, a scooter full of his belongings beside …

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Homeless in Englewood

Without family, ‘I had no options’

Denver man ends up on street after fire damages home

Posted

In a patch of grass just out of the hot sun, Randall Thompson lay near the sidewalk along South Cherokee Street near the CityCenter Englewood shopping area, a scooter full of his belongings beside him.

Five hours earlier, he was on a bench three blocks west in front of the Englewood Civic Center, the building that houses the city’s offices and library. Thompson, who has been homeless for 5 1/2 years, was waiting for the library to open at 10 a.m. that Saturday, July 7.

But by the time he left, he was barred from coming to the library — that day and every day for the next year.

“I think that’s a steep punishment for not doing anything wrong,” Thompson said. He had his feet on the bench near the fountain because of a disability, he said, and a private security guard thought he was sleeping.

MORE: 'Where are we gonna go?'

The guard said Thompson could sit there, but not with the scooter and heap of shopping bag-wrapped belongings, Thompson said. The security guard called Englewood police, who wrote Thompson a trespass notice that bans him from a large area extending between the nearby RTD light-rail station and South Elati Street, and between West Hampden and Floyd avenues.

According to the guard’s incident report, provided by the Englewood Police Department, the guard woke up Thompson, who said he is in his late 50s. He told Thompson he couldn’t sleep there. Thompson said he was just resting his feet and would sit until the library opened, the report said.

MORE: Englewood library and city buildings increase security

Englewood’s loitering law says a person staying in one place and not conducting any business can be contacted by officers, according to Sgt. Chad Read, spokesman for Englewood police. That would include people lying in public areas like a park or on the grass near sidewalks.

“If they’re not causing any issues, am I gonna contact them? If I don’t feel they’re in medical distress or causing a problem, I’m probably gonna be on my way,” Read said. But, he added, it’s up to an officer’s discretion.

Read was not aware of any reason a person wouldn’t be able to have belongings with him on a scooter. The Englewood officer could have given Thompson a verbal warning rather than banning him, but that choice is up to the officer, Read said.

MORE: For homeless, the streets and the law can be a gray area

Thompson has been a homeowner in Denver since 1992. He paid off his house, he said, and took time off from working, planning to do home improvements. But repeated fire damage rendered his home uninhabitable, and he’s spent more than five years trying to fix it up.

The City of Denver gave him a notice in January that bars him from his property, partly due to the ongoing damage, he said. He believes the fires were set by someone he knows, but said he is unable to prove it.

Officials do not believe Thompson actually set the fires, according to the Denver Fire Department. There was no evidence to suggest somebody else started fires, and both incidents on record were deemed accidental, although due to some carelessness by Thompson, according to the department. Thompson said more than two fires have occurred.

Before the notice, Thompson would work on his home during the day and rest in areas to the east. Now, unable to stay on his property, he huddles under coats and a tarp. He has stayed in Denver and Jefferson County, but comes to CityCenter Englewood — an area where he’s shopped for decades — to buy food.

High occupancy rates at shelters make staying outdoors a better option, Thompson said. Strangers walk up and give him money, which helps keep him afloat. He hopes he can regain access to his home and continue repairing it.

“I had no options. My sister, grandma, father died. Mom, I don’t know where she is,” said Thompson, adding he never used government assistance like food stamps. “I never relied on anybody but me ... I did everything right.”

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