Denver carries out homeless sweep in Ballpark neighborhood

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DENVER -- Dozens of homeless people were swept out of their encampment Thursday in Denver's Ballpark neighborhood.

City representatives called it a matter of public health and safety.

The encampment had been growing for months near the intersection of Delgany and Denargo streets.

Like all of the recent homeless sweeps, the city said it had been trying to get the people to move out on their own. But a spokeswoman said substance abuse appeared to be a major obstacle.

And once again, the people refused to move out until they were forced.

"Homeless people need to be together as a group for safety and this was a perfect place for them to be,” said Diane Thiel, who said she is against the city’s homeless sweeps.

Dozens of homeless men and women, some with pets, had been living in the encampment that stretched more than a block.

City crews worked to collect leftover personal belongings for warehouse storage. The city's health director called the site a public health hazard.

"I've seen needles, biohazardous waste, broken glass ... just a number of conditions out here, including their cooking conditions which were potentially dangerous,” Denver Environmental Health administrator Bob McDonald said.

He said residents from the encampment need to be where they can access available housing and health care.

A spokeswoman said several city agencies have been working at the site for weeks trying to find the people alternatives with only limited success because of substance abuse.

"They talk about cycles, about breaking the cycle. Well, break the freaking cycle,” said Ray Lyall, who said he has been homeless for four years. “Open up give us some property. Give us some garbage cans. Give us some bathrooms. Let us pull ourselves up by our boot straps.”

With new apartment buildings going up around the encampment, Denver continues its policy of moving them out.

The personal items left behind can be picked up in a city storage building.