Juliette Parker sees two issues at the heart of nearly every problem facing Colorado Springs: homelessness and affordable housing.
And as a longtime tiny house advocate, she sees becoming mayor as the only way to ensure the city does anything about it.
A newcomer to Colorado Springs — she arrived about two years ago — Parker has quickly made a name for herself as an advocate for people experiencing homelessness and as a vocal proponent of addressing rising housing costs.
“It (homelessness) is a symptom of the fact our city does not have good leadership and is not managing things the way they need to be, and isn’t putting enough effort into caring about residents — homeless or not homeless,” Parker said.
Parker, 37, came to Colorado after having spent much of her life in Washington state and Texas. It was here that she found a perfect middle ground, and a place to raise her two children.
But at the rate that housing prices have risen in recent years, she fears her children might not be able to stay.
“I love Colorado Springs, and I want to live here the rest of my life,” Parker said. “I would like my kids to be able to live here and grow up here. I would like to have my grandkids be able to grow up here and live here and have their kids here.
“But the problem is the way this city is going, we’re not going to be able to have that happen.”
Her day job involves social marketing for a local plumbing business. But her passion — and much of her off-hours — are focused on growing a nonprofit she founded, MENDA, which stands for Meaningful Empowerment through New Development and Art.
Its work is focused on creating a tiny house village catering to people experiencing homelessness — offering them a long-sought path off the streets, she said, at relatively low cost. The nonprofit is seeking land for the project.
If elected, she said she’d step down as director of the organization, but remain on its board of directors as a nonvoting member. Still, she would focus much of her attention on homelessness — one of the top complaints received by city officials — and housing.
She said the city’s current work to address homelessness is “a plan to make a plan,” especially when it comes to affordable housing. And she said Suthers has only prolonged the crisis.
“He basically either pretends it doesn’t happen or hopes that he can punish them out of the city,” Parker said.
She said she wants to see more money the city receives in federal grants funneled to nonprofits that have demonstrated an ability to collaborate.
She also said she wants an assortment of city development fees reduced specifically for affordable housing developments. And she wants the city to help turn more blighted land into affordable housing.
Outside housing issues, she said she wants to leave it to voters whether to renew ballot measure 2C — which imposed a 0.62 percent sales tax increase to fix potholes and fund road improvements across the city. And she favors allowing voters to decide whether to allow recreational marijuana sales within city limits.
All of that pales in comparison, however, to the urgency she has for addressing homelessness and housing affordability.
“I get that I’m not a lawyer, and I don’t have tons of political experience, but I think that’s a good thing,” Parker said.
“I’m not tainted by the world of politics. I don’t owe anybody anything.
“The only thing I care about is this city, and the residents and the voters of this city.”