Denver set to clear out downtown homeless camps on Tuesday

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DENVER -- Starting Tuesday, the city of Denver is taking back its sidewalks. It said it will begin clearing the area around Lawrence Street and Park Avenue of numerous homeless camps.

It’s the latest step in a continuing struggle with Denver’s growing homeless population. The homeless have created tent cities that block entire sidewalks, everything they own piled high on public property.

“This is an unsanitary, unhealthy situation, not just for the people out there, but for the neighborhood as well,” said Julie Smith with Denver Human Services.

So the city is taking action. Beginning Tuesday, Denver is ordering the removal of all items on public sidewalks and property. Items that remain will be removed.

“There’s not really much compassion here for the homeless. You pretend the problem doesn’t exist. You should try to fix the problem. ‘Hey, we are taking your stuff. Get outta here!’” said Thomas Peterson, who is homeless.

“I will stand my ground. I’m going to avoid conflict as much as possible. And I told anyone else that protests to be peaceful. But you have people that have mental illnesses who don’t understand what peaceful means,” said Samuel Garrett, who is also homeless.

They say the enforcement points out a much bigger problem of where they can go.

“You can’t stay down by the river. You can’t stay on 16th (Street Mall). You can’t stay on the corners. What do you want?” Peterson asked.

But the city said the homeless can go to shelters where no one is turned away, and can access medical, mental health and other services.

“There are some people who refuse those services. Unfortunately, this is the next step,” said Bryan Slekes, with the Ballpark Neighborhood Association.

He said there are no easy answers. But he hopes the enforcement brings some resolution.

“We have to think of ways to help the folks on the street, and think of businesses, residents and tourists that come through this neighborhood,” he said.

Property that isn’t removed will be taken to a warehouse at 1221 Glenarm Place. There, people can pick up their items, Monday through Friday from noon to 2 p.m.

Whatever is not claimed after 30 days will be destroyed.