After the conference ended, late Tuesday night of this week, I knew that I would get the opportunity to explore a small portion of Colorado, see what made it tick, what I liked, and what I could do without. As the capital of Colorado, Denver is like any other capital city you might visit: massive legislative buildings, towering skyscrapers full of office space, conference centers, and an intense amount of visual homelessness. This last portion was quite astounding actually. I have been in many large cities and the homeless population seems to be always at it’s height in these areas, but this was unlike any city I have seen before. A report conducted in late 2009 showed that the homeless population was well over 11,000 in the metro area and that number was expected to rise significantly within months. Why the large number? Unemployment, inability to afford rent or mortgage, foreclosures.
So what does this have to do with sustainability? Well, as I have mentioned before, sustainability isn’t simply environmentally focused. Sustainability is the ability to endure, and tons of different categories fall under its umbrella, including ecological sustainability, economic sustainability, and social sustainability. The homeless issue pours into mostly the last two of these. Clearly something within areas with high homeless rates are experiencing some intense form of unsustainable living, and there are many people who are feeling the brunt of that unequal equity between the rich and poor. It can be referred to as social injustice in many circumstances. To put a little evidence into this, this report found that last year the state of Colorado hurt medical care for the homeless by cutting the budget of one of the main clinics in Denver by over $2.5 million.
I know, I know, these aren’t Ithaca numbers, but spending the week in another area made me realize just how intense this issue is. It doesn’t seem as visual or intense here in Ithaca, but it does exist and it’s something to think about when looking at a city’s commitment to sustainability. Think about it.