Pot seen as reason for rise in Denver homeless

Rethinking Pot Edibles Industry

DENVER (AP) — Officials at some Denver homeless shelters say the legalization of marijuana has contributed to an increase in the number of younger people living on the city’s streets.

One organization dealing with the increase is Urban Peak, which provides food, shelter and other services to homeless people aged 15 to 24 in Denver and Colorado Springs.

“Of the new kids we’re seeing, the majority are saying they’re here because of the weed,” deputy director Kendall Rames said. “They’re traveling through. It is very unfortunate.”

The Salvation Army’s single men’s shelter in Denver has been serving more homeless this summer, and officials have noted an increase in the number of 18- to 25-year-olds there.

The shelter housed an average of 225 each night last summer, but this summer it’s averaging 300 people per night. No breakdown was available by age, but an informal survey found that about a quarter of the increase was related to marijuana, including people who moved hoping to find work in the marijuana industry, said Murray Flagg, divisional social services secretary for the Salvation Army’s Intermountain Division.

Some of the homeless have felony backgrounds that prevent them from working in pot shops and grow houses, which are regulated by the state, Flagg said. He also thinks others may find work but don’t earn enough to pay rent in Denver’s expensive housing market.

At the St. Francis Center, a daytime homeless shelter, pot is the second most frequently volunteered reason for being in Colorado, after looking for work.

St. Francis executive director Tom Leuhrs also sees an economic reason for the increase of the number of homeless young people. They’re having difficulty moving from high school and college to the workforce, Leuhrs said.

“The economy is not supporting them. There are not enough jobs,” he said.

Edward Madewell said he was on his way back home to Missouri when he decided to head to Colorado so he could keep smoking the marijuana he uses to control seizures. “I’m not going to stop using something organic. I don’t like the pills,” he said.

Dusty Taylor, 20, said he moved back to Colorado, where he grew up, to avoid legal problems. “I don’t want to catch a felony for smoking,” he said

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s