Letter to the Honorable Michael Hancock,
Mayor of The City and County of Denver
I want to explain to you who I am and about the mental health agency where I work and volunteer. I want to explain to you my concern about the community meeting that was held at Shorter AME church on January 17, 20I7.
My name is Victor Smith. I am a white gay blind man living with depression with psychotic features as well as AIDS. I am also the co-president of the CHARG Resource Center consumer board. I have also served on the Mayor’s HIV resources planning council from November 2002 to 2006. While on the planning council, I co-chaired the needs assessment committee for two years and co-chaired the planning council for two years.
I find as a blind man that I personally identify with people of color more about discrimination and systems not responding to me. Mr. Mayor, CHARG Resource Center is a small mental health agency on Capitol Hill. We also run a Drop-In for people with mental illness. What is different about our program is that it is run by two boards of directors. One board is a strictly consumer board and the other is a regular non-profit community board. These boards are legal and binding partnership to run the agency.
Now that you know a little bit about me, I will tell you my concern and encouragement from the community meeting. As you know, the Director of Public Safety; the Sheriff; and the Chief of Police were at the meeting. At this meeting, three black men were spoken about a great deal. They were Paul Childs, Martin Booker, and Michael Marshall. At the meeting, there was no mention about the fact that all three men were also mentally ill.
At the end of the meeting, the Sheriff, the Director of Public Safety, and the Police Chief were asked one question. The Sheriff and the Director of Public Safety were asked if they would consider sitting with community members to solve the overcrowding conditions and other issues in the jail. They answered “yes” which is very encouraging because it seems that they are willing to partner with advocates from the community to work on these issues. Chief White, however, was asked if he would sit down with the independent monitor citizen review board and advocates from the committee and his answer was “no.” He feels that three meetings with the community where he takes what he wants will suffice and he ignores the rest.
This is a totally unacceptable stand because there is no true community input in the process, Mr. Mayor. I would like to point out to you the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition motto and state why it should apply to all of us. The motto is, “Nothing about us without us.” This should apply to all people in policy decisions made by the city. We, as a community, would have more buy-in to these policies and laws.
If you want to contact me to find more about me and/or CHARG Resource Center, you may call me
on my cell number 303-591-7435 or at CHARG Resource Center 303-830-8805.
I deeply appreciate you reading this letter, and I hope this will help you to get Chief White to change his mind.