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Homeless Advocates File Lawsuit Following Homeless Facility Fight

By Rick Sallinger

LAKEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4) - The fight for land to house a major facility for the homeless in Lakewood is not over.

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The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless is now asking a federal judge to stop the auction of surplus land at the Federal Center.

Though already turned down, the coalition is not giving up on its plans to create, at first, temporary units then a more permanent facility of up to 600 units.

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In February, coalition President and attorney John Parvensky told CBS4 the project was extremely important.

"This provides really a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," he said.

At a community meeting that month, officials were met with anger and yelling from those in the audience.

"Shame on you not to think about the people living out there, only yourself and your family," one woman shouted.

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While there was strong sentiment from some about helping the homeless, the idea of a suburban shelter near 6th Avenue and Union did not go over well.

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The former site of a proposed homeless housing area in Lakewood. (credit: CBS)

"My grandson, if he even gets to one of those needles at Belmar (shopping area) from those people hitting up, that's on your shoulders, buddy boy," said the woman who previously shouted at a community meeting.

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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services denied the shelter application saying the coalition did not have a proper funding plan.

The lawsuit by the Coalition claims the law requires that the land be used for public health purposes and that includes the "use of surplus property to assist the homeless." The lawsuit contends the coalition should have been given further opportunity to provide additional information before its application was rejected.

The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless issued the following statement:

"Today's filing was to give the U.S. Attorney's office the required notice of our intent to file a motion for an injunction against GSA's auction of the property and HHS's denial of due process for us regarding our financing plan. We believe it is our duty to challenge these actions in order to protect the rights and safety of hundreds of individuals and families experiencing homelessness in Jefferson County and the Lakewood area who are often invisible and forgotten."

CBS4's Rick Sallinger is a Peabody award winning reporter who has been with the station more than two decades doing hard news and investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter @ricksallinger.

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