The Denver Post by TOM MCGHEE
Drivers on one of the busiest corners in Denver’s River North Art District have had a clear view of life in Denver’s first tiny home village, where 16 formerly homeless people now live behind a chain-link fence.
Their fishbowl existence came to an end Sunday when 60 volunteers wove colored slats through the 400 feet of chain-link fence that surrounds the Beloved Community Village at the corner of 38th and Walnut streets.
Resident Silla Sarah Marie Wolf, 30, said “there’s been days I saw nearly 10 people” taking photos of the small wooden homes within the compound and the residents who live in them.
“Some of us definitely feel like we are in a fishbowl.”
Residents reached out to the RiNo Art District and requested a creative solution to the lack of privacy for villagers, and the district responded with a plan to obscure the view with a riot of color, said Tracy Weil, RiNo’s district’s creative director.
Because most manufacturers utilize a limited color palate to make their slats, Weil turned to a company in New York that doesn’t confine its merchandise to beige, or white. “We are an art district; we have got to have some color.”
Black slats will stretch across 125 feet of fence to spell out the word “HOME” on the 38th Street side of the fencing, said Eva Zimmerman, 42, a graphic artist who was installing the strips of black vinyl. “I’m trying to determine how thick I want the strokes to be,” she said, eyeing a 2-foot-wide row of dark color she had woven into the fence.
Beloved Village and the art district paid $2,500 for materials for the privacy fence. “They have been getting overwhelming support for what they are doing,” Weil said of the self-governing tiny home community.
The slats are red, orange, yellow, blue, green, purple and black. Weil told volunteers to pick a color and put five to 20 slats in place before choosing another color and repeating the process.
“RiNo saw a need and came up with a creative and beautiful solution,” said Karen Seed, 30, an organizer for Denver Homeless Out Loud.
Highlands Ranch resident Jodee Brekke, 47, brought her 13-year-old daughter, Ellie Bacon, to help with the project.
They saw a request for volunteers online, Brekke said.
Denver is not doing enough to address homelessness, she added. Her daughter’s generation will probably come of age and confront a homeless problem that their elders have ignored, Brekke said.
“More and more people are going homeless,” Ellie said. “So I think little towns like this are good ideas.”
Brittany Anas, 35, came from her home in Westminster to help out. “I really love this neighborhood and love coming to breweries and art galleries down here. I want to give back to this community,” she said.
Residents moved into the crowdfunded village in July.
Eleven 8-foot-by-12-foot homes, a bathing house and a circular building with space for food prep and community gatherings fill the Urban Land Conservancy-owned property.
Silla, who moved in when the village opened, said she no longer feels homeless. She has set up her own online business selling jewelry and other items on etsy.com, an e-commerce website focused on handmade or vintage items.
“It feels great. This is my house,” she said, her hand lingering for a moment on an exterior wall.