Boulder mall favorite Ibashi-I latest victim of city’s housing crunch

Ibashi-I performs his stretching routine on the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder on Wednesday. For more photos go to dailycamera.com. Paul Aiken Staff Photographer March 7 2018

Well-known Pearl Street Mall contortionist Ibashi-I is in a bind that he is going to need some help escaping.

Ibashi-I, known to many simply as “Bashi” — given name Mitford Theodore Brown — is facing the prospect of homelessness by the end of this month.

The house in north Boulder where he has a room is being sold, and the half- dozen tenants who live there need to be out by March 31.

“He’s pretty desperate right now,” said Ron Holm, of Littleton, who is the grandfather of one of Ibashi-I’s four children. “He’s going to be homeless in three weeks.”

According to Holm, Ibashi-I has been paying a $680 monthly rent. That is close to the ceiling for what he would be able to pay and still have enough on which to eat.

“He has been an icon in that city, and I use that word fully knowing what it means,” Holm said. “From my point of view, he’s owed something. That’s how it is.

“And I know there’s gotta be people who come to Pearl Street in the summer to see him, and when they come, they spend money. I’m hoping someone can step up and say, ‘I can get you a place, I know what you need.'”

The mall gig is not one that is high paying.

Asked about Ibashi-I’s typical take, Holm said, “I know in the cold months it’s close to zero. I have been there for several hours on a fall day, and I have seen him get five bucks.”

Ibashi-I has a complicated history. A native of the tiny Caribbean island of St. Kitts, he came to the United States in 1984, finding his way to Boulder from Key West, by way of Denver. In Colorado, he racked up a series of legal problems, including traffic violations, petty marijuana possession offenses and a domestic violence complaint.

That led to his being threatened with deportation in 2011, before that action was canceled by an immigration judge in Denver. Ibashi-I had caught authorities’ attention the year before while re-entering the country, when he was flagged by a customs official for a 2007 marijuana possession conviction in Denver.

‘A man who just needs some help’

Holm said Ibashi-I does not have a current relationship with Holm’s daughter, and only “rarely” sees the son that the two have in common.

“The bottom line is, I care about him,” Holm said. “I don’t want to see him destitute. He and I have had a really struggled relationship — and for a long time, there was none. And finally I just realized, here this is a man who just needs some help. He’s a good man. He’s had his troubles, but he’s got a heart that’s a good heart. And that was my fault at the beginning, not knowing that and not giving him a chance.”

Ibashi-I was in his usual spot on the Pearl Street Mall near the Boulder County Courthouse lawn on Wednesday, beckoning passersby with calls of “show time.”

He was aware of Holm’s trying to rally help for his cause, and is hopeful his next landing place can be in the community he has come to love.

“I have become Boulder, and Boulder has become a part of me,” he said as he stretched to prepare for his routine, which includes cramming his lithe frame in a 20-inch plexiglass cube. “I don’t want to be anywhere but Boulder.

“I’m making the best of what I have here. I’ve just got to have a place where I can rest my body, so I can get up and do it all over again. Bodies can’t function if they don’t rest.”

He doesn’t have a car, and hopes that he can find affordable lodging within walking distance of the mall.

Hoping for another 20 years

Holm has helped Ibashi-I, who has four children ranging in age from 11 to 25 by three different “baby mamas,” as Ibashi-I called them — his children do not live with him — secure some help from Boulder County Housing and Human Services. Jim Williams, a spokesman for that department, said he could not speak about Ibashi-I’s case specifically.

However, he said, the performer’s plight is increasingly common in the Boulder area.

“We are indeed seeing a big increase in the number of people who are struggling with the high cost of housing,” as well as many other issues, such as food, health and child care, Williams said. “We are seeing an increase in the number of people who come to us for a number of different issues. But the housing issue is leading the way.”

Housing and Human Services, Williams said, can help steer people toward the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and other services, all of which can help clients marshal the dollars they need to devote to rent.

Holm said people who might have a lead on an affordable Boulder rental option for Ibashi-I should text Holm at 720-630-5430.

Ibashi-I plans to keep entertaining mall crowds for years to come. Although Holm fears that at 61, his friend’s aging body may not let him ply his craft much longer, Ibashi-I dismissed such concerns.

“I’m hoping for the next 20 years I can keep doing what I’m doing,” he said. “I’m like the animals, who always keep moving.

“I just don’t stop.”

Charlie Brennan: 303-473-1327, brennanc@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/chasbrennan

Ibashi-I performs his stretching routine on the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder on Wednesday. (

Paul Aiken / Staff Photographer)

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