Denver clears homeless camps from sidewalk — again

DENVER -- Eight months ago, the city of Denver cleared away dozens of homeless camps in downtown Denver.

On Tuesday morning, city workers were at it again after the homeless returned to stake their claims to public sidewalks.

“I can’t stand see all of us moved somewhere else or be moved to the river and die like they want,” said a homeless man named Josh who came to Colorado from Missouri.

And at 8:30 a.m., city crews moved in -- under the protection of Denver police -- to remove numerous homeless camps piled high on public sidewalks.

“I’m angry. I’m sad. I’m hurt. Because they are looking at us like we are nothing, like we are something they can just kick off the street,” said Tabitha, who said she has been homeless since she was 13.

For the most part, the sweep, compared to the one on March 8, was peaceful but not without protests and not without tears.

“The only thing I got left is a shopping cart. I tied myself to my shopping cart for them not to move my stuff,” said a homeless man who said his name is Ken Reality.

The homeless said you can remove them for a time, but the overall problems remain.

“When you move us and our stuff, guess what? We come back. Why? Stop trying to kick the problem underneath the rug. Answer it,” Reality said.

“It’s just a tragedy that we as a people say it’s OK to sweep people into the shadows and not address the underlying issues,” said Rev. Amanda Henderson with Interfaith Alliance of Colorado.

She said those issues include affordable housing and repealing the city's camping ban. But the city said people don’t have to sleep outside when there are shelters with open beds.

“We do have space available for anyone in our city who needs shelter services. At this point, we haven’t turned anyone away. We have 150 to 200 beds open every night,” said Julie Smith with Denver Human Services.

She also said the city has helped 1,000 homeless find housing in the past couple years.

Crews collected about 16 bins of belongings that they’ll store in a warehouse in the nearby RiNo district.

It took crews five hours to clear about one-third of the camps surrounding Park Avenue West, Broadway and Lawrence Street. They’ll be back Wednesday to reassess what to do next.

“We will be right here fighting, just like we did today. We believe in the right to rest and we’re people too,” said a homeless woman who did not want to give her name.

The people have 60 days to pick up their belongings from the warehouse before they are destroyed

Also, homeless advocates said the legislature will debate a Right to Rest bill when they return to work in January. It would protect people’s right to sit, lay down and protect themselves from the elements.

The city is also still fighting a federal lawsuit filed after the first sweep in March, in which the homeless say their constitutional rights were violated.